Virginia-LSU Preview

The Associated Press

Virginia has shown that it has some work to do before starting ACC play. A trip to LSU might provide a good chance to prepare for the conference season.

After struggling to put away an unheralded opponent, the 21st-ranked Cavaliers will try for a better performance and an 11th consecutive win in their final non-league game Monday night.

Virginia led winless Towson by two points with 5:40 remaining Friday before holding on for a 57-50 victory. The Cavaliers shot a season-low 34.8 percent, but Sammy Zeglinski made six of his 12 shots - four from 3-point range - en route to a season-high 20 points.

"If we play like this in conference play, no, we're not ready for the conference. That's pretty obvious," coach Tony Bennett said. "The challenge for us is every time we have a performance like this, what do we have to do to improve? That's our job as coaches and players to shore up those areas that are going to cost us."

Virginia (12-1) is seeking its best start since winning 27 of 28 to open the 1981-82 season and its longest win streak since an 11-0 start in 1992-93. Accomplishing those goals could prove difficult with LSU (10-3) riding a seven-game win streak, its longest since a 10-game run Jan. 28-Feb. 28, 2009.

"We've got to sharpen up offensively. Execute better and break teams down and limit them to one shot on the defensive end," Zeglinski said. "I think we're all excited to go to LSU and really test our team."

The Tigers have allowed fewer than 60 points in each game of their win streak, which includes a 67-59 home win over then-No. 10 Marquette on Dec. 19. They held winless Grambling State to 22.8 percent shooting during a 69-37 rout Thursday.

"It's my responsibility to make sure that they understand that yes, we've done a good job, we've managed to win games and we managed to compete at a high level, but here's the next game, here's the next challenge," coach Trent Johnson said.

Johnson's team could get help soon with Andre Stringer having been cleared to return to practice recently.

The sophomore guard, averaging a team-best 12.1 points, has missed the past five games after fainting at practice Dec. 10. Stringer's status for Monday is uncertain.

"You're talking about a guy who hasn't done anything for like 3 1/2 weeks," Johnson said.

The Tigers could use the help against a team that defeated them 64-50 last Jan. 2 in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers, though, won't have their leading scorer from that victory, K.T. Harrell, who announced he was leaving the program Dec. 23.

They will have Mike Scott, averaging a team-best 16.3 points and 9.0 rebounds. The senior forward missed the last matchup with LSU due to an ankle injury that eventually ended his season.

Virginia, winner of four straight road games dating to Feb. 23, has never visited LSU. The Cavaliers lead the series 2-0 and beat the Tigers 78-74 in the third-place game of the 1981 NCAA tournament.

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