Charlottesville, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Virginia Cavaliers continue a three-game homestand on Monday, as they welcome the Pittsburgh Panthers to John Paul Jones Arena for an ACC showdown.
Tony Bennett's Cavs opened up the current homestand on Saturday and were able to hold off a motivated Wake Forest squad and pick up a 61-60 victory. The win was the fourth straight for Virginia, which has just one loss on the season (69-63 to Duke). At 23-1, Virginia has tied the best start in school history (1980-81). The defending ACC champions are still atop the conference standings at 11-1, with Notre Dame (10-3) and Duke (9-3) not far behind.
Jamie Dixon's Panthers have started to peak at the right time. Pittsburgh has won four of its last five games to improve to 17-9 overall and 6-6 in conference play. The team most recently disposed of nationally-ranked North Carolina at the Petersen Events Center on Saturday, 89-76.
This represents Pittsburgh's first trip to Charlottesville since 1976. Virginia holds a 9-3 series advantage all-time and is 3-1 in home games in this series, which dates back to 1951. The Cavaliers won both meetings last season - a 48-45 decision at Pittsburgh and a 51-48 decision in the ACC Tournament.
Offense came easy for the Panthers in their matchup with the Tar Heels over the weekend. Pittsburgh shot a season-best .649 from the floor and never trailed in the game. The team jumped all over UNC with a 10-0 run to start things off and never looked back. Sophomore forward Sheldon Jeter was the unexpected star of the game, as he posted a career-high 22 points to lead the charge for Pitt. Five other Panthers notched double figures in the offensive onslaught, as Cameron Wright (15 pts), Michael Young (13 pts), James Robinson (12 pts), Jamel Artis (11 pts) and Chris Jones (10 pts) all made sizable contributions. Wright recorded a double-double with 10 assists. Robinson almost joined him with eight helpers of his own.
The scoring eruption against North Carolina is not the norm this season. The Panthers average a rather modest 68.8 ppg on the year, but they do it on an efficient .451 shooting. Young headlines the play in the frontcourt. The sophomore forward is shooting .524 from the floor and paces the team in both scoring (13.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.6 rpg). Artis (12.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) has played extremely well over the last month or so and has upped his averages as a result. Robinson has proven to be both a solid scoring threat (10.1 ppg) and deft distributor (5.2 apg - third in the ACC).
A second straight scoring deluge isn't likely for Pittsburgh, considering the foe the Panthers are going up against. Virginia has always been tough defensively under Bennett, but this year may be the best the team has every played at that end of the floor. The Cavaliers currently lead the nation in scoring defense (50.9 ppg), rank third in field-goal percentage defense (.357) and in the top-10 in rebounding margin (+8.7). Virginia has played short- handed the last couple of games with Justin Anderson (13.4 ppg) sidelined with a hand injury, but others have stood up and filled the void. Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill lead the charge in the scoring department with 13.6 and 11.2 ppg, respectively. Gill tops the team on the glass, with 6.8 rpg.
Brogdon saved the day against Wake Forest as he forced a turnover on the final play of the game, preventing the Demon Deacons from a monumental upset of the second-ranked team in the country. Virginia held a 13-point second-half lead and almost gave it all away, but was able to keep its winning ways going with clutch performances by its best players. Gill led the way with 19 points and six rebounds in the win. Brogdon almost had a double-double, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds. London Perrantes also posted 11 points, while Mike Tobey chipped in eight off the bench for Virginia, which shot .453 from the floor in the game.