Virginia Tech-Virginia Preview

The Associated Press

After struggling to beat Virginia Tech for much of the previous four seasons, Virginia broke through with a pair of victories over its rival during the 2010-11 campaign.

Judging by the recent performances of both teams, the 15th-ranked Cavaliers appear poised to add another win over the visiting Hokies on Sunday night.

Virginia (15-2, 2-1 ACC) is one of the nation's best defensive teams, allowing 50.4 points per game on 38.3 percent shooting, and it relied on that in a big way Thursday to bounce back from a narrow loss at Duke. The Cavaliers allowed Georgia Tech to shoot just 29.2 percent - 1 of 15 from 3-point range - in a 70-38 blowout in Atlanta.

It was the fourth time in coach Tony Bennett's three seasons that Virginia has allowed 38 points or fewer, but it was the lowest point total by an ACC opponent since a 61-37 victory over Clemson on Jan. 11, 1995. It was also the program's largest margin of victory in conference play since a 104-72 rout of North Carolina State on Jan. 29, 1991.

"I didn't expect it to be like this, but I'll certainly take it and hope we can keep building on it," Bennett said.

The Cavaliers will try to do just that against the only team still winless in ACC play. Virginia Tech (11-7, 0-4) has averaged 60.3 points on 35.8 percent shooting during conference games, falling 82-68 to No. 8 North Carolina on Thursday.

Leading scorer Erick Green had a team-best 17 points - his 19th consecutive game in double figures - and made three of his team's season-high 13 3-pointers. The Hokies, though, gave up 13 more points than in any other game this season, including 48 over the final 20 minutes.

"They just came out and punched us in the second half, and we didn't respond," Green said. "We were with them in the first half, but we've got to learn to play two halves. That's a problem for us right now. That's been the story every time we've been losing."

Virginia Tech fell behind 36-24 after one half during a 57-54 home defeat to Virginia on Dec. 5, 2010. The Cavaliers, who had lost six of eight to the Hokies prior to last season, followed with a 61-54 win in Charlottesville on Feb. 19.

Virginia capped the first season sweep of its rival since 2005-06 without Mike Scott, who was dealing with an injured ankle that caused him to miss 21 games.

Scott, averaging a team-best 16.9 points and 8.8 rebounds this season, had 21 points and 13 rebounds during the win in Blacksburg. He's averaged 20.7 points and 11.3 rebounds over his past three games against the Hokies.

Without senior center Assane Sene, who had surgery on his injured right ankle Friday, Virginia will try to continue its recent success against in-state foes. The Cavaliers have won 41 of the last 50 such contests including 32 of 35 at home, where they're 9-0 against all opponents this season.

They've won 33 of 44 all-time against Virginia Tech in Charlottesville, leading the overall series 81-52.

Since upsetting then-No. 1 Duke on Feb. 26, the Hokies have lost three games against ranked opponents by an average of 13.0 points.

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