Charlottesville, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - Closing in on at least a share of its second straight ACC regular-season title, the second-ranked Virginia Cavaliers will play host to their instate rival Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon at John Paul Jones Arena.
Tony Bennett's Cavalier moved to 26-1 on the season following Wednesday's 70-34 rout of Wake Forest and with the win, tied the 1981-82 squad for the best start in school history. Virginia has won seven straight games since suffering its only loss of the season at Duke on Jan. 31 (69-63) and sits at 14-1 in league play, a full two games ahead of second-place Duke (12-3) with three to play.
Buzz Williams' Hokies have struggled to find the win column on a regular basis in his first season at the helm, as Virginia Tech is just 10-18 overall, with an ugly 2-13 league ledger, residing just outside the conference cellar. Still, Tech has certainly not given up on the year, as evidenced by their most recent contest, taking fourth-ranked Duke to the limit and beyond with a 91-86 overtime loss at Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday.
Virginia holds an 87-53 lead in the all-time series with Virginia Tech and has won the last six meetings. The Cavaliers are seeking a regular-season sweep after earning a hard-fought 50-47 win in Blacksburg on Jan. 25.
Freshman Jalen Hudson showed no jitters going up against one of the nation's best teams, as the young Hokie erupted for a career-high 23 points and six rebounds against the Blue Devils earlier in the week. Four other Hokies joined Hudson in double-digit scoring, with Adam Smith (15 pts), Ahmed Hill (11 pts), Devin Wilson (10 pts) and Justin Bibbs (10 pts) all making sizable contributions. Wilson completed a double-double with 11 assists for Virginia Tech, which shot .534 from the floor overall, including a sizzling .696 in the first half. However, Duke regained its swagger in the extra session and put the game away.
The 86 points against Duke was a little out of the ordinary for a Virginia Tech squad that nets a more modest 66.0 ppg on the year. The team has also struggled with its play on the glass, getting outrebounded by a whopping seven boards per game. Smith is the team's top scoring threat at 13.6 ppg, thanks mostly to his long-range acumen, where he knocks down a healthy .430 from behind the arc (71-of-165). Bibbs has made an immediate impact as a freshman, netting 12.5 ppg.
Virginia was a bit short-handed, with two starters (Justin Anderson and London Perrantes) missing from the lineup, but they looked as good as ever, with a thorough whipping of Wake Forest. The Cavaliers held the Demon Deacons to a season-low 34 points, while allowing Wake to shoot an ugly .218 from the field. Meanwhile, the Cavs delivered on half of their shots (28-of-56) to run away with the decision. Anthony Gill and Darion Atkins led the way offensively, finishing with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Malcolm Brogdon finished with nine, as did Devon Hall.
Anderson (13.4 ppg) is out for a little while longer with a hand injury and Perrantes (team-high 110 assists) missed the last game with a broken nose, but the way Virginia plays defense, it may not matter who is one the floor for the Cavaliers. Bennett's squad leads the nation in scoring defense (49.9 ppg) and ranks third in field-goal percentage defense (.351). The team averages just 66.0 ppg but that is more than enough to roll up the wins at a record pace in Charlottesville. Brogdon headlines the scoring depth with 13.5 ppg. Gill is a solid frontcourt option with 11.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.