Tony Bennett's Cavaliers have really been one of the true surprise teams in the first half of the season, posting wins in 13 of their first 14 games. Virginia's lone loss thus far came to TCU on November 18th as part of the Paradise Jam. Since then, the team has strung together 11 straight victories, the longest streak for the Cavs since the 1992-93 season. With a win over Miami, Virginia will record its first 12-game win streak since the 1981-82 campaign. Virginia was able to close out its non-conference schedule with a hard-fought 57-52 win at LSU on Monday.
The Hurricanes are in their first year under Jim Larranaga and the team has had its moments, finishing up its non-conference record at 9-4. Miami is currently playing some of its best basketball to date, bringing a four-game win streak into this contest. The team picked up its ninth win of the season with a 99-89 shootout win over UNC Greensboro earlier in the week.
Miami holds a 9-4 advantage in the series with Virginia. The Hurricanes have won the last three meetings, including a pair of overtime games last season.
The Hurricanes posted their largest point total of the season against the Spartans, finishing just one point shy of the century mark. Kenny Kadji was a huge contributor to the point total, racking up 30 points, on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor and 10-of-13 from the free-throw line. Kadji's contribution wasn't limited to the scoring column, as he racked up 12 rebounds and two blocks as well. Shane Larkin and Durand Scott finished with 18 and 17 points, respectively, while Trey McKinney-Jones chipped in with 11. Miami shot an impressive 52.5 percent from the floor overall and was an effective 30-of-38 from the free-throw line in the game. The 99 points scored this week is certainly not the norm for Miami, which comes into this contest netting 73.6 ppg. The team does have scoring depth though, with four players currently averaging double figures. Malcolm Grant leads the way at 14.5 ppg. Scott is next in line at 13.3 ppg, followed by Reggie Johnson and Kadji at 10.8 and 10.6 ppg, respectively. During the team's current win streak, Kadji has really elevated his game, leading the way on the scoreboard in three of the four wins.
Bennett brought a defensive tenacity with him to Charlottesville and the Cavaliers have bought into that philosophy from day one. This season has been no different, as Virginia is limiting opponents to a mere 50.4 ppg (second in the country) on .382 shooting (23rd nationally). The offense has lagged behind a bit at a modest 66.6 ppg, but is certainly more than enough with Virginia boasting of an impressive +16.2 scoring margin. Veteran Mike Scott is one of the ACC's best frontcourt players and comes into this contest averaging team- highs of 16.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Guards Joe Harris and Sammy Zeglinski provide adequate backcourt balance with 13.0 and 10.3 ppg, respectively. The win over LSU on the road was another illustration of Virginia's commitment to strong defensive play. The Cavs limited the Tigers to just 52 points, while forcing 16 turnovers. Zeglinski led the way for Virginia with 17 points. Harris added 14, while Scott just missed a double- double with 12 points and nine rebounds.