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Virginia aims to claim state bragging rights

Conference-leading Cavaliers host Hokies, seek to rebound from loss to Wake Forest

After failing to extend its eight-game win streak last week, a Virginia team eager to regain momentum will face its fifth ACC opponent of the season tonight at John Paul Jones Arena, taking on in-state rival Virginia Tech.

"I think that's the beauty of sports - you can't be too discouraged or too elated if it goes well," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "We'll prepare for the in-state rival and learn from the breakdowns - address those, and get ready to play. That's all we can do."

The Cavaliers (12-5, 3-1 ACC) began conference play with a 3-0 record after a road win against N.C. State and two impressive home victories against then-ranked Miami and Georgia Tech.

After a lackluster performance and loss in Winston-Salem last weekend, however, Virginia fell to 3-1 in the ACC. The Cavaliers also ranked first in the conference until Maryland picked up a win the same weekend tying with the Cavaliers for the top spot in the ACC.

"This game will be a learning experience for us - we'll look at the tape [and] we'll learn from it," senior forward Jerome Meyinsse said of the Cavaliers' showing against Wake Forest.

The Hokies (15-3, 2-2 ACC), meanwhile, have struggled through their conference schedule for the most part. Apart from a convincing win against Miami at home, Virginia Tech has lost both of its road games and barely edged Boston College - picked to finish ninth in the preseason media poll - by one point in the squad's most recent home contest.

Though Tech is seemingly struggling, the Hokies are actually off to their best start since the 1994-95 season.

One threat the Cavaliers will have to look out for is Hokie junior guard Malcolm Delaney and his 19.5 average points per game, a statistic which is also tops in the ACC.

The Cavaliers were the only team in the conference to return all five starters from the 2008-09 season, but the Hokies' starting lineup arguably possesses more overall experience. Tech will most likely field four juniors and a sophomore at tip-off, while Virginia's likely line-up has only two upperclassmen to accompany two sophomores and freshman guard Jontel Evans at point.

Backing up Delaney for the Hokies are junior forward Jeff Allen and junior guard Dorenzo Hudson - both of whom average double figures in scoring. The key to a Virginia victory, therefore, will be to contain Tech's multiple scoring threats and to bounce back from the team's poor defensive showing last weekend against the Demon Deacons. In that game, Wake Forest shot 52.3 percent from the floor while the orange and blue managed only 33.8 percent.

Momentum will not only prove critical for the Cavaliers to win this game, but down the road as well, as the young squad prepares to face North Carolina on the road and Duke at home in the near future.

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