Ronnie Suggs
Virginia-Bradley Preview
Ronnie Suggs

Virginia-Bradley Preview

Published Nov. 18, 2015 5:35 p.m. ET

Having had some deficiencies exposed by a stunning defeat, Virginia gets a chance to sort itself out with three games in four days.

One of the final teams to lose a game last season, the No. 6 Cavaliers became the first top-10 upset victim of this one after falling 73-68 at George Washington on Monday.

Virginia (1-1) showed neither the intensity nor the precision on defense that propelled it to a 30-4 record and a No. 2 regional seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, something coach Tony Bennett hopes to rectify in this week's Charleston Classic. His team faces Bradley on Thursday night in the opening round.

"We can't (say), 'We were just off, it wasn't our game.' It wasn't that," Bennett said. "We got outplayed. We got out-executed, and we have to keep finding ourselves. That's the challenge."


After leading Division I in scoring defense (51.5 ppg) and holding opponents to 36.7 percent shooting last season, the Cavaliers allowed George Washington to hit 45.1 percent and surrendered their highest point total in regulation since an 87-52 defeat at Tennessee on Dec. 30, 2013. Virginia was beaten on the boards 37-33 after outrebounding every non-conference opponent last season.

"I look at it as a learning experience. I think we had uncharacteristic breakdowns that we usually don't have," guard Malcolm Brogdon said. "We've just got to be tougher. That's really it."

The result could be a wakeup call for a program that's relied on its ability to get stops during consecutive 30-win seasons under Bennett. The Cavaliers were 28-1 when limiting foes under 46.0 percent shooting last season, with the 60-54 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament's third round the lone blemish.

Bradley (1-1) doesn't figure to pose much of a threat, having averaged 57.0 points and 35.3 percent shooting in its first two games under new coach Brian Wardle.

The Braves did hang tough for a half against another ranked team known for its defensive prowess, trailing No. 12 Arizona by six Monday before faltering after the break in a 90-60 loss. Bradley was outscored 51-27 while missing all 11 attempts from 3-point range in the second half.

"We just had a lot mental breakdowns, not enough talk, just little things in the final 15 minutes that really opened it up," Wardle said. "You just can't do that against Arizona. You've got to sustain it."

The Braves, who started four freshmen and a sophomore, also showed their inexperience by committing 35 fouls that resulted in 52 Arizona free throws. They'll be challenged to keep Brogdon, a career 86.4 percent free throw shooter coming off a personal-high 28 points against George Washington, off the line.

Ronnie Suggs had 17 points off the bench against the Wildcats and Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye scored 18 in Friday's 54-53 win over Ball State. The guards are two of eight freshmen currently in the rotation for a program essentially starting from scratch following a 9-24 season under former coach Geno Ford.

Bradley has won both previous meetings with Virginia, the most recent coming in 2008.

Thursday's winner will face either Long Beach State or Seton Hall in the winners' bracket Friday.



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