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Virginia aims to sweep Tigers

Cavaliers prepare to play Clemson on the road; injury contributes to struggling roster

The No. 22 Virginia men's basketball team battles Clemson tonight at Littlejohn Coliseum after suffering a 70-52 setback against North Carolina.

The is the second time the Cavaliers (19-5, 6-4 ACC) face the Tigers (12-12, 4-6 ACC) this season after Virginia survived a late scare from Clemson to win 65-61 in Charlottesville Jan. 31.

"We're getting prepared to play a team in Clemson that's very good at home," coach Tony Bennett said. "We had a hard-fought game against them at our place. We were fortunate to come out on top and are certainly just getting ready to play."

Since Jan. 31, both teams have gone 1-2, with their only wins coming against Wake Forest.

Virginia is still struggling to recover from the loss of starting senior center Assane Sene, who was injured in the team's Jan. 19 game against Georgia Tech, and it now must cope with an injury to starting sophomore guard Joe Harris, who broke a bone in his left hand during the team's Feb. 11 loss to North Carolina. Harris played through the pain for most of the game against the Tar Heels, but another nagging injury could be problematic for a team with only two active players on the bench who have averaged more than five minutes per game this season.

The decision to play Harris has to be made at game time, Bennett said.

"There's obviously some swelling, we're waiting for it to go down," Bennett said. "It's not an ideal situation, but if there's two positives about it, it's first and foremost how tough Joe is ... and [also] it's on his non-shooting hand."

The lack of depth in Virginia's roster certainly showed in the North Carolina game. The Cavaliers initially kept up with their opponents' energy, but as the game moved into the second half Virginia began to show signs of fatigue. This was especially evident as the team faced foul trouble and struggled to keep pace with North Carolina on the offensive boards.

The Cavaliers' precariously short bench has plagued them all season. Bennett has often substituted star players out of games this season to avoid wearing them down and, as a result, the team has had difficulty maintaining leads. Among Virginia's 10 conference games so far, only four have been decided by a margin of more than four points. The squad lost the four games before Saturday by a total of 10 points.

The Cavaliers' late January game against Clemson followed the close-game pattern and, having already played each other once, both teams have a sense of familiarity in this meeting.

Virginia has to protect the ball more effectively than in the last match-up, as last time Clemson forced 11 turnovers while committing just four.

Harris may be a big scoring factor if he can play through his broken hand. In the first game, Harris shot 7-for-9 from the floor for 19 points, capitalizing on Clemson's focus on shutting down star senior