Miami certainly has its hands full in the competitive ACC. Even Virginia has suddenly become a strong contender.
Following their first loss in eight games, the 23rd-ranked Hurricanes look to knock off the only ACC team unbeaten in conference play when they visit the Cavaliers on Saturday night.
Miami (15-2, 1-2) gave up an average of 59.3 points in winning seven straight prior to an 81-66 loss to Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.
The Hurricanes never had much of a chance, falling behind by 35 late in the first half. Their only other loss came against ACC rival Boston College, 61-60 on Dec. 6.
Though Miami has had a tough time in league play, 10 other ACC teams have at least one conference loss. Surprisingly, the only ACC squad yet to lose a conference game is Virginia (10-4, 2-0).
The Cavaliers dropped four of their first eight games, but have won six straight since then. That streak includes a 72-63 victory over then-No. 24 Alabama-Birmingham on Dec. 30, and an 82-75 win over No. 20 Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.
This is Virginia’s longest run since it won seven in a row in 2006-07. The Cavaliers are 2-0 in the ACC for the first time since winning their first four in 1994-95.
Virginia is embracing first-year coach Tony Bennett’s defensive philosophy, winning with many of the same players who were around for last season’s 10-18 finish.
“It just seems like to me this year everybody’s a lot more confident,” Cavaliers junior guard Mustapha Farrakhan said. “We’re going in there and playing with a lot of confidence out there, relying on one another. It’s great.”
Farrakhan had 15 points, four assists and three steals off the bench against the Yellow Jackets, settling into a reserve role after starting seven of his first eight games. Farrakhan, grandson of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, got little playing time last season under coach Dave Leitao.
“A lot of us, including myself, we didn’t get a chance to get in a rhythm last year,” he said. “This year, I’m being more confident, more aggressive and when you do that, good things happen. … I’m having a lot of fun, especially when we’re coming out with ‘Ws.’
Virginia is led by sophomore guard Sylven Landesberg, who is averaging 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He had 13 points and seven rebounds in the Cavaliers’ 62-55 loss to the Hurricanes on Feb. 26, the teams’ only matchup last season.
It was Miami’s third straight win against Virginia. The Hurricanes lead the series 6-3.
Miami leading scorer Dwayne Collins was held to six points in last season’s meeting. The senior forward had nine points against Virginia Tech after posting a season-high 23 in a 67-66 win over Wake Forest last Saturday.
The Hurricanes need consistent play from Collins, especially when they struggle from the perimeter. Miami leads the ACC in 3-pointers made with 146, but went 6 for 27 (22.2 percent) from beyond the arc versus the Hokies.
Hurricanes guard James Dews went 1 for 13 from 3-point range in his last two games after making 48.6 percent (34 for 70) of his attempts over his first 15 contests.