Virginia-Virginia Tech Preview
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Virginia is allowing the fewest points per game of any team in the nation after accomplishing the same feat last season.
What does stand out in 2014-15 is that the Cavaliers are even better defensively.
Second-ranked Virginia looks to continue its best start in 24 years while keeping host Virginia Tech winless in ACC play on Sunday.
The Cavaliers (18-0, 6-0) haven’t gone this deep into a season without a loss since Ralph Sampson led the 1980-81 squad to a 23-0 start. They are giving up just 49.3 points per game after allowing a nation-low average of 55.7 last season while making a run to the NCAA tournament’s regional semifinals.
They held an opponent below 30 points for the third time this season with a 57-28 win over Georgia Tech on Thursday. The Cavs have also held two other teams below 40.
Virginia ranks second nationally in field-goal percentage defense at 33.5, a mark made even more impressive by the fact that they’re forcing only 9.8 turnovers per game.
"We’re not going to give in," coach Tony Bennett said. "We’re not going to give them an easy look. Everything’s got to be contested … Don’t yield, don’t yield, and I think our guys embrace that most of the possessions."
Virginia knows, though, that there’s plenty of tough competition in the loaded ACC. It needed two overtimes to beat Miami 89-80 in its league opener Jan. 3, led N.C. State by one at halftime before winning by 10 on Jan. 7 and trailed No. 8 Notre Dame by three at the break before pulling away late Jan. 10.
The Cavs’ last three victories have come by an average of 22.3 points, but the schedule gets much more difficult following this contest. They host No. 5 Duke on Jan. 31, visit No. 15 North Carolina on Feb. 2 and return home Feb. 7 to face No. 10 Louisville.
"It’s a long season," said Justin Anderson, the team’s leading scorer at 14.1 points per game. "We all know how the ACC is with the tremendous amount of talent that we face night in and night out. We have to make sure that we just continue to stay humble, play together and just try to keep putting our best effort in front of us."
Virginia isn’t looking past the Hokies (8-10, 0-5) despite winning the last five matchups. Virginia Tech led by seven at halftime Feb. 18 in Blacksburg before the Cavaliers rallied for a 57-53 win behind 12 points from Malcolm Brogdon.
"It gets really loud in there (Cassell Coliseum)," Anderson said. "The light’s not as bright as in other gyms. I love that environment. They have a great student section. They’re jumping all around up there. I expect an intense, great environment, and it’s going to be a tough, hard-fought game."
Joey Van Zegeren scored 13 points for Virginia Tech in that meeting, but coach Buzz Williams announced before Thursday’s 85-60 loss to Notre Dame that Van Zegeren will not return to the team after being suspended indefinitely for unspecified rules violations.
Justin Bibbs, averaging a team-best 13.6 points, also was out against the Fighting Irish. The freshman missed a second straight game after suffering a concussion in practice Jan. 16, and Williams said he isn’t sure if Bibbs will be able to return against Virginia.
The Hokies are off to their worst start in conference play since dropping their first nine Big East games in 2001-02.