Coral Gables, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The third-ranked Virginia Cavaliers hit the road for the first time since early December, as they open up ACC play on Saturday evening at the BankUnited Center against the Miami Hurricanes.
Tony Bennett's Cavaliers asserted themselves as the team to beat last year after capturing both the ACC regular season and tournament titles. Virginia has certainly built on that momentum by winning all 12 of its games thus far to ascend to the third overall spot in the Top-25. It has been stifling defensive play that has fueled the team's success, but on Tuesday, the team showed some offensive punch in an 83-72 win over Davidson.
Jim Larranaga's Hurricanes aren't that far removed from their own ACC crown, earned two years ago. The team forged its way into the Top-25 with wins in its first eight games of this season. However, Miami has hit a wall of late with losses in three of the last five games. The Hurricanes did end non-conference play on a winning note though, blowing out College of Charleston on Dec. 30, 67-40, to move to 8-3 on the season.
Miami holds a 10-6 series advantage against Virginia and are 6-0 in this series at home. Virginia won the last meeting however, a 65-40 decision in February of last year.
The Cavaliers had a rare defensive lapse against the explosive Wildcats to close out the calendar year, but were able to fend off Davidson and remain undefeated on the season. The Wildcats shot .482 from the floor against Virginia, but the Cavs used a .567 clip in the second half to come-from-behind and get the win. Anthony Gill was sensational in the victory, recording a double-double with a career-high 25 points and 13 rebounds. Malcolm Brogdon poured in 16 points, Justin Anderson finished with 14 points and Darion Atkins posted his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds in just 18 minutes of work off the bench.
The Cavaliers aren't nearly as explosive offensively as they showed against Davidson. The team is getting it done with some of the best defensive play in the nation, holding foes to just 48.3 ppg on .326 shooting. The also boasts of a strong +14.4 rebounding margin. Anderson headlines a trio of double-digit scoring averages with his 15.0 ppg. Brogdon is next in line at 13.3 ppg, followed closely by Gill's 13.2 ppg. A 6-foot-8 junior, Gill is tops on the team in rebounding (7.2 rpg).
Miami plays a tough brand of basketball as well, with defense being the driving force. The Hurricanes are limiting the opposition this season to just 59.7 ppg, while allowing just .401 shooting overall. The team is led by a pair of transfers in guards Sheldon McCLellan (Texas) and Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State). McClellen is shooting a stout .550 from the floor and paces the team with 15.7 ppg. Rodriguez is second in scoring (13.6 ppg) and first in both assists (54) and steals (30). Manu Lecomte (10.2 ppg) completes a deep backcourt.
The Hurricanes turned up the heat defensively on the Cougars earlier in the week as the College of Charleston managed to shoot just .296 from the floor overall, including a meager 2-of-14 effort from behind the arc. It was once again Miami's dynamic duo that led the charge, as Rodriguez posted a team-high 15 points, while McClellan finished with 11.