Towson-Virginia Preview


Virginia could begin ACC play next weekend enjoying its longest winning streak in 19 seasons.

There's little chance Towson will be able to prevent that from happening.

The 23rd-ranked Cavaliers go for their best start in nearly three decades Friday night in Charlottesville, where they'll face a Tigers team trying to avoid going an entire calendar year without a victory.

Since a 57-55 loss to TCU in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Nov. 18, Virginia (11-1) has rolled off nine consecutive victories. The last time the Cavaliers accomplished that was a 9-0 start to 2001-02.

"I just want to keep playing good ball and knowing that the good competition is coming,'' coach Tony Bennett said following Tuesday's 69-42 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore.

If win here would match Virginia's best start since 1982-83, and a victory at LSU on Monday will allow the Cavaliers to open league play next Saturday against Miami on their longest win streak since an 11-0 start to 1992-93.

Virginia has won nine straight at home in non-conference play by an average of 23.4 points, and it has posted 22 consecutive victories over Colonial Athletic Conference foes following wins over Drexel on Nov. 19 and George Mason on Dec. 6.

That does not bode well for the Tigers (0-12), who just passed the one-year anniversary since their last victory, 93-90 in overtime against La Salle on Dec. 29, 2010.

With its next game Monday versus Northeastern, this is Towson's last shot at avoiding an 0-for-2011. If the team's defense doesn't improve - the Tigers are allowing 75.7 points per game - first-year coach Pat Skerry wouldn't be shocked if plenty more losses piled on the current 31-game skid.

"The defense let us down all night, which just can't happen," he said after Vermont shot 50.9 percent against his team in a 65-49 loss on Friday. "If we don't guard and rebound at a high level, we won't win a game."

Sacramento State lost a Division I-record 34 in a row from Dec. 22, 1997-Jan. 25, 1999.

The Tigers, though, committed a season-low 10 turnovers on Friday - one-half their season average.

"We're getting better," freshman forward Deon Jones, who scored a team-high 11 points, told the school's official website. "We're not having as many (turnovers) as we had earlier in this year. As the year goes on, we'll get better."

That probably won't happen Friday, as the Cavaliers are one of the top defensive teams in the nation, holding teams to an average of 50.3 points on 37.3 percent shooting.

One of the better matchups should be down low between Virginia forward Mike Scott - the winner of the last two ACC player of the week honors - and Towson senior Robert Nwankwo.

Scott, the team leader with 17.1 points per game, is averaging 22.3 points with 11.0 rebounds over the last three games.

Nwankwo is scoring a team-best 12.3 points with 8.8 boards per game.

Virginia has won all four meetings between the teams, including a 94-66 rout in the most recent meeting Dec. 3, 1994.