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Miami-Virginia Preview

Just a week ago, Virginia was up 14 points at the half against rival Virginia Tech and looking as if it would end the night tied for first place in the ACC.

Fast forward seven days and the 18th-ranked Cavaliers now find themselves three games out of first place and sputtering in the middle of their first three-game losing streak in six years.

The loss to the Hokies followed by setbacks to Duke and North Carolina suddenly have sent Tony Bennett and his team scrambling and desperate for a win entering Monday night's matchup against visiting Miami.

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The Hurricanes have won two straight and four of their last five games and are tied with Virginia at 8-5 in the conference and 18-8 overall. In fact, Miami's only two losses in their last six games have against ranked opponents Florida State and Louisville.

"Part of the key for us is to be able to hold teams under 70 points," Miami head coach Jim Larranaga said. "If we can do that and do some good things offensively, then we have a good chance."

Miami has done just that in four of its last five wins as the Hurricanes' defense is continuing to be one of the best in the country. Miami ranks 32nd in the nation and is allowing just over 64 points per game.

That doesn't bode well for Virginia, which currently is searching for its offense.

"It's no mystery that we don't score inside," Bennett said after his team's 24-point loss to North Carolina on Saturday night. "So when we are missing perimeter shots, that puts a lot of pressure on us defensively."

While Virginia has still played pretty well on the defensive end, its last two losses to Duke and North Carolina have come with offensive droughts that no team could overcome. The Cavaliers shot a season-low 27 percent from the field against the Tar Heels after entering the game ranking second in the ACC in shooting percentage.

Virginia also started the game 0-for-17 from the 3-point line and finished 2-for-20.

"I think our poor offense hurt our defense," Bennett said. "When you miss those shots, that's a problem. Points are hard to manufacture for us if we are not hitting those outside shots."

The Hurricanes' balanced offensive attack will challenge Virginia's defense especially with guard Davon Reed's ability to shoot from 3-point range. Reed currently averages just shy of 16 points per game and shoots it at a 41 percent clip from beyond the arc.

In its six-point win over Clemson on Saturday, Miami held the Tigers to 17 percent shooting from the 3-point line and isn't likely to let up on the defensive end against a current stagnant Virginia offense.

Virginia will need to remedy its shooting woes against the Hurricanes and it will start with senior guard London Perrantes.

"I don't know what to say, we are struggling, obviously," Perrantes said. "We've just got to find a way to get over it, get over the hump, get over the slump."