NC State-Virginia Preview

Virginia will get an opportunity to put its stamp on the ACC race in its upcoming games but will first have to get past one of the teams near the bottom of the standings.

The seventh-ranked Cavaliers will seek to shake off a stunning loss Monday night by continuing their recent mastery over North Carolina State.

Virginia (20-5, 9-4) trails conference leader North Carolina by 1 1/2 games, but will get to face the Tar Heels and another contender, Miami, to close out this month. The Cavaliers will also take on No. 13 Louisville and Clemson to finish the regular season.

“This stretch of games, I said (to the players), will test the mettle of great teams,” coach Tony Bennett said. “Now, I don't think we're a great team. I think at times we're good and can play real good, but this will test us. We'll get ourselves as ready as we can and stay true to who we are.”

The Cavaliers' chances for a third consecutive regular-season league title took a hit Saturday as Duke's Grayson Allen banked in a shot at the buzzer to hand Virginia a 63-62 road loss, ending a seven-game win streak.

Bennett thought Allen traveled on the game's final play and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski felt his sophomore guard was fouled.

“The good thing about a quick turnaround is we don't have time to hang our heads,” forward Anthony Gill told the school's official website. “We're going to go in the gym and really move on from this and learn from it, but continue to work.”

Virginia will seek to bounce back with a fourth consecutive win over NC State (13-12, 3-9) and seventh in a row at home in the series. The Cavaliers' stingy defense will try to contain red-hot ACC scoring leader Anthony “Cat” Barber (24.1 ppg).

The junior guard had a career-high 38 points in a 99-88 victory against Wake Forest on Saturday and is averaging 32.2 while shooting 53.1 percent in his last five games. Barber has also scored at least 30 points in five of his last seven contests.

“He's elite in terms of his quickness and speed,” said Bennett, whose team leads the ACC in scoring defense at 59.8 points per game. “He's added some shooting to his game. He's having a heck of a year.”

Barber, who averaged 12.1 points last season, had a combined 17 while shooting 35.0 percent in two losses to Virginia. NC State is averaging 47.7 points during its three-game losing streak to Virginia while shooting 33.5 percent.

The Cavaliers will try to earn an 18th consecutive home win in their only scheduled meeting with the Wolfpack this season. They've beaten the last 38 unranked visitors.

NC State is 1-5 on the road in ACC play and was beaten 67-55 by then-No. 5 North Carolina on Jan. 16 in its only other visit to a ranked team. The Wolfpack are 2-3 overall against Top 25 opponents this season.