While Virginia's Mike Scott may not garner as much national attention as some of the bigger names in college basketball, his game is starting to speak for itself.
His 23rd-ranked Cavaliers look to win nine straight for the first time in 10 seasons Tuesday night against visiting Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Scott, who missed 21 games in 2010-11 after suffering a season-ending ankle injury, is back at full strength and has Virginia (10-1) looking like one of the more formidable teams in the ACC. The fifth-year senior is averaging 17.1 points and 9.9 rebounds to rank among the top five in the conference in both categories.
With a career-best 33 points on 12-of-14 shooting and 14 rebounds, Smith led the Cavaliers to their eighth straight victory Wednesday, 83-77 at Seattle.
"He was in a zone. His touch was great," coach Tony Bennett said. "He adds the versatility of going back to basket and post you up or shoot that mid-range jumper."
Despite Smith's tremendous effort, Virginia - which hasn't posted nine straight wins since opening 9-0 in 2001-02 - found itself down by two at the break before rallying in the second half.
"You've got to be able to handle adversity," Bennett said. "We didn't do a great job with it but there is a point as a coach where you try and say 'We've got to get some stops, we've got to take care of the ball, we've got to come together' and either it's going to happen or it's not."
Though the Hawks (3-9) don't seem likely to present much of a challenge, the Cavaliers will be short-handed Tuesday following the departures of redshirt freshman James Johnson and sophomore K.T. Harrell. Both announced their plans to transfer over the holiday weekend.
"Obviously with K.T. Harrell (on Friday) and James (on Saturday) deciding not to continue at Virginia I am disappointed," Bennett told the school's official website. "But with that being said, if James and K.T. feel it's best for them not to be here I think it's better for everyone to part ways."
While Johnson was getting only limited minutes off the bench, Harrell began the season as a starter before seeing his playing time rapidly diminish. The duo made up half of Bennett's first recruiting class in Charlottesville.
The Cavaliers, whose average of 51.1 points allowed ranks third in the nation, figure to shut down Maryland-Eastern Shore. Virginia has taken eight in a row at home versus non-conference opponents by 23.0 points per contest.
The Hawks, though, should be well rested following a nine-day break in between games. They last took the court in a 64-60 defeat at Air Force on Dec. 17 - their 20th consecutive road loss dating to last season.
Junior Percy Woods, who leads the team with 11.1 points per game, scored 14 while reserve center Pina Guillaume posted a season-best 12 points and 11 rebounds.
"Pina's play was solid, and hopefully it was his coming-out party," coach Frankie Allen told the school's official website.
Maryland-Eastern Shore also received a boost from big man Ron Spencer, who had 11 points and eight boards in his debut with the program after transferring from Tennessee-Martin.
In their only two matchups versus ranked foes since the start of 2007, the Hawks fell 100-64 at then-No. 6 Oklahoma on Jan. 5, 2009, and 97-64 at then-No. 8 Pittsburgh on Dec. 18, 2010.
They got a similar result in their only previous meeting in this series, falling 104-63 at Virginia on Nov. 26, 2006.