No. 2 Virginia looks to win ninth straight vs. Georgia Tech (Jan 18, 2018)

BY AP • January 17, 2018

After starting the season unranked, Virginia has soared to No. 2 in the latest AP Top-25 poll this week after closing out a three-game homestand with a 68-51 win over North Carolina State on Sunday.

The Cavaliers have won eight games in a row but will have to hit the road for three of their next four games beginning Thursday night against Georgia Tech (10-7, 3-1) in Atlanta.

Despite an up-and-down nonconference performance, the Yellow Jackets have been a pleasant surprise in the Atlantic Coast Conference and currently sit just 1 1/2 games behind Virginia (16-1, 5-0) for first place in the league.

Like every Virginia opponent, Georgia Tech will need to be prepared to run into a defensive buzzsaw.

The Cavaliers are allowing just 52.9 points per game this season, best in the country, while the Yellow Jackets average just 66.6 points per game. Virginia has not allowed more than 68 points in any game this season, and no team has shot 50 percent or better against Tony Bennett's squad.

"Our guys just focus on fundamentals, and defense is important to them," Bennett said. "They know that (defense) is our identity and you just keep hammering away at it to be as good as you can be."

Virginia held North Carolina State to just 17 points during their normal halfcourt offense on Sunday, and despite their fast start in conference play, Georgia Tech has yet to break the 70-point barrier in any of its four games.

"We have finally gotten to start to practice and get our team together, so we have gotten better post-Christmas," Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner said. "We have improved in the start of both the game and the second half ... Our next stage is, are we able, when we have someone down, can we keep them down?"

The Yellow Jackets started hot in their last outing against a lowly Pittsburgh squad and led 25-5 at one point in the first half.

"Normally, we don't do that," Georgia Tech center Ben Lammers said. "We have gotten better at starting, but we've never had a start like that. It was nice to have that 20-point cushion and be on the winning side of that."

Lammers is one of four Yellow Jacket's averaging in double figures, averaging 12.1 points. Josh Okogie has returned from a six-game NCAA suspension to lead Georgia Tech in scoring at 18.8 points per game in the nine games he has played.

Senior guard Devon Hall scored a career-high 25 points for Virginia in the Cavaliers' win over North Carolina State and is currently averaging 12.7 points per game this season.

"I've been here for five years so that's where a leader steps up," Hall said after his team's win over the Wolfpack.

Georgia Tech owns a 40-39 advantage in the all-time series, but Virginia has won two straight and four of the last five. The Yellow Jackets scored just 101 points in their previous two games combined against the Cavaliers.

Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. on Thursday.



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