November 20, 2014

Virginia's early season schedule has posed little threat and allowed the reigning ACC champion to roll to its best start since 2008-09.

Keeping it alive Friday night could be a bit of a challenge as the ninth-ranked Cavaliers face their first true test with George Washington visiting John Paul Jones Arena.

Virginia (3-0) has manhandled James Madison, Norfolk State and South Carolina State by an average margin of 25.4 points. Defense remains the Cavaliers' calling card, limiting those teams to averages of 48.3 points and 28.4 percent from the field, after allowing a nation-low 55.7 points per game last season.

They might not have such an easy time against the Colonials (2-0), who have had equally easy victories and already won one on the road over a Big Ten foe (Rutgers). George Washington, which won 24 games last season and reached the NCAA tournament, was picked to finish second behind 15th-ranked VCU in the Atlantic 10 and received votes in the most recent AP poll.

"It's a really big step up in competition," Cavaliers forward Darion Atkins told the school's official website. "They made the (NCAA) tournament last year. They've got a lot of experience. They play really physical, and it's going to be a great test for us Friday."

Looking past the statistics borne from lack of competition, certain trends seem promising early on for Virginia. Besides their ongoing defensive prowess, the Cavaliers are among the national leaders in 3-point shooting at 47.7 percent.

Justin Anderson has knocked down 10 of 16 from beyond the arc after hitting 29.4 percent last season, which was third-worst among ACC players with at least 100 attempts. The junior guard is scoring a team-high 15.3 points per game, nearly double his average as a sophomore.

"The offseason's all about physical improvement and skill development, and Justin, I know, really tried to develop a consistent shot," coach Tony Bennett said. "And so it certainly looks better, and I hope that holds up."

Fellow starters Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill have both shot over 51 percent from the field. Brogdon leads the team with 10 assists while limiting his turnovers to two. Gill's averages are well above last season with 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

The Colonials are looking forward to the matchup, which comes five days after they rolled past the Scarlet Knights 70-53.

"It was definitely a nice win," coach Mike Lonergan said. "Now we got some time to recover to play a nationally ranked team, ACC champions. We're excited about it."

Kethan Savage and Joe McDonald, forced into more significant roles following the departure of the Colonials' two leading scorers after last season, have topped expectations through two games. Savage has posted averages of 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists, while backcourt partner McDonald has added 11.5 points, 8.5 boards and 4.0 assists.

The Colonials are 0-16 against top 10 teams since beating No. 1 Massachusetts in 1995 and have lost all six meetings with Virginia since 1974, with the most recent coming in the 2004 NIT.

The Cavaliers have won 13 straight at home - all but one by double digits.

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