No. 7 Virginia faces toughest test in Iowa
After becoming the first team in the last 20 years to hold three straight opponents to less than 40 points, No. 7 Virginia will face its toughest test of the young season against Iowa on Friday night.
The matchup between the Cavaliers and the Hawkeyes will take place in Niceville, Fla. in the semifinals of the Emerald Coast Classic.
Virginia and Iowa last met in 2013 when the Hawkeyes defeated the Cavaliers 75-64 in the quarterfinals of the NIT. Much has changed since then as Virginia became a staple in the top 10, and the Cavaliers look for their best win of the season.
“I would say we've been tested, but tested against each other every day in practice,” Virginia guard Darius Thompson said. “We go against each other every day, battling against one of the better defenses in the country. I think our practices prepare us to play against anybody.”
Iowa (3-1) boasts the nation's ninth-best scoring offense at 96.3 points per game. Guard Peter Jok has averaged 24 points per game so far this season, which leads the Big Ten, and the Hawkeyes have five players averaging at least seven points per contest.
Jok needs just 31 points to reach the 1,000 mark for his career. The Hawkeyes will be without the services of senior Dale Jones, who suffered a fracture in his right wrist against Seton Hall. Jones is expected to miss eight to nine weeks of game action.
Virginia's perfect record of 4-0 will be put to the test against Fran McCaffery's high-powered Iowa offense. The Cavaliers are ranked first in the country in scoring defense this season as they allow just under 39 points per game.
“I haven't really played against a good defense yet this year,” Jok said. “Offensively, we will be good as long as we move the ball. We have a lot of guys that can score but to be successful we have to play defense too and that starts with me.”
Freshmen have been needed, and thrived for both teams in the early going of the season. Iowa and Virginia both boasted highly-touted freshman in and forward Tyler Cook and guard Kyle Guy, respectively.
Cook has tallied double-digits in his last three games and is averaging just a tad under 15 points per game to compliment Jok. In the Hawkeye's win over Seton Hall, Cook scored a career-high 24 points and will be a handful for Virginia's frontcourt despite his lack of collegiate experience.
Guy has also been impressive in the Cavaliers' 4-0 start. Guy's coming out party came Tuesday night against Grambling State where he came off of the bench to score a game-high 20 points, which included a 5-for-6 mark from the three-point line.
Virginia's guards could be a matchup problem for Iowa, which has yet to face a superior opponent like the Cavaliers thus far this season.
The winner of Friday's semifinal matchup will move on to Saturday's championship game against the winner of the Memphis-Providence game on Friday.