No. 1 men's basketball takes on Miami

Newly top-ranked Cavaliers looking to bounce back from Virginia Tech loss

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Virginia senior guard Devon Hall will try to help his team get back on track against Miami Tuesday night.

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

Although the Virginia men’s basketball team fell to in-state rival Virginia Tech over the weekend, the Cavaliers (23-2, 12-1 ACC) still climbed up to the No.1 spot in the AP Top 25 poll.

Virginia will now head to Miami Tuesday to try to preserve its status as the top-ranked team in the country. The team will also aim to bounce back from the 61-60 overtime loss to the Hokies (18-7, 7-5 ACC). 

"We had a chance to steal it, that's the word I'd use, and get one," Coach Tony Bennett said, "and sometimes that's good enough. You take it any way you can. But if I look at the quality of the game over the majority of it, I didn't think we had enough quality to [win]."

In Virginia's first conference loss of the season, offensive struggles greatly held back the team. The Cavaliers shot 34.4 percent as a team, and a mere 28.9 percent from three. Sophomore guard Kyle Guy — who normally leads the team in scoring with an average of 15.3 points per game — only converted five of his 21 shots. Senior guard Devon Hall finished the night as Virginia’s leading scorer with 16, though he uncharacteristically missed two big free throws in the final 31 seconds. 

The Hokies, meanwhile, were able to exploit Virginia’s defense — they shot an impressive 57.1 percent overall and behind the arc in the first half.

"I think we played poor defensively,” Hall said. “We are a fighting team, but we can learn from our mistakes.”

In overtime, although the Cavaliers had a 60-56 lead with 20.7 seconds to go, Virginia Tech nailed a three-pointer — bringing the game to a one-point difference. A quick foul by Virginia Tech sent Hall to the free throw line, where he missed, allowing the Hokies to score the game-winning shot with 5.8 seconds remaining. 

"I don't get too carried away with where we are,” Bennett said. “I always say 'thus far,' and now we have to prove it again. I told our guys they've done an unbelievable job to get where they are… and we're going to get a chance to do it again, and we're going to have to fight like crazy every game. 

“Everybody is capable of beating everybody in this league, and that's reality,” Bennett added. “If you're little off, it's not enough."

Virginia’s next chance to prove itself comes in the form of an away game against Miami (18-6, 7-5 ACC), who is also looking to recover from a tight loss over the weekend. 

The Cavaliers have struggled when playing the Hurricanes in the past few years. They have especially been challenged when the game has been in Coral Gables, Fla., as evidenced by their 1-7 record when visiting Miami. 

Last season, the Hurricanes picked up a 54-48 win in Charlottesville. Although the Cavaliers lost that game, Virginia’s current seniors — Hall and forward Isaiah Wilkins — had quality performances, with 15 points for Hall and 10 points and 10 rebounds for Wilkins. 

Of the last ten meetings between Virginia and Miami, nine of the games have been decided by a narrow nine points or less, and two of the last five meetings have gone to overtime.

This year, a young Miami team has two active players averaging more than 10 points per game, with sophomore forward Dewan Huell averaging 12.3 points and freshman guard Lonnie Walker averaging 11.3 points. Although Huell and Walker have had an impressive season thus far, Miami took a big offensive loss when sophomore guard Bruce Brown suffered a season-ending injury. Brown averaged 11.4 points per game before sustaining an injury to his left foot in late January.

As a team, the Hurricanes average 75.5 points each game. This will make for an interesting clash with Virginia’s defense, which is holding teams to an average of just 52.8 points per game. 

Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m Tuesday, and Virginia’s next game won’t be until Feb. 21 when they host Georgia Tech. 

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