December 29, 2014

Virginia has only added to its reputation as one of the nation's best defensive teams this season, and its latest performance was arguably its finest.

Seeking their best start in 33 seasons, the third-ranked Cavaliers could get a much greater challenge in their non-conference finale Tuesday night against a Davidson team which entered the week leading the nation in scoring.

Virginia (11-0) is on pace for its fewest average points allowed in one season, giving up 46.2 per game - 8.0 fewer than the 2011-12 school record. While they have a long way to go to break that mark, the Cavaliers aided their cause with a 76-27 rout of Harvard on Dec. 21 in their last game.

They held a team that's gone to three straight NCAA tournaments to 16.0 percent shooting, the lowest by any opponent in program history, and the 27 points allowed - eight in the first half - were their second-fewest in the shot clock era after a 45-26 win over Rutgers on Nov. 29.

"We are just working on playing the game regardless of the score, and we know we will need to keep playing at a level like this to be successful," coach Tony Bennett said.

Virginia has not allowed an opponent to shoot better than 40.0 percent from the field and ranks second nationally in that category (31.2) while leading the country in points allowed.

"We take so much pride in our defense, at the end of the games we'll say, 'don't let them get "x" number of points,'" forward Evan Notte said. "... We pride ourselves on the fact that we're holding teams to lower points and on the offensive end, taking advantages of our opportunities."

The Cavaliers next seek their first 12-0 start since 1981-82 but face a Davidson team averaging 87.7 points, tops in the nation through Sunday. That production has been keyed by its 41.4 percent 3-point shooting. Virginia has held its last eight opponents to 24.3 percent from beyond the arc.

The Wildcats (9-1) had a subpar performance from 3-point range in their latest game, going 8 of 24 on Dec. 20 at the College of Charleston, and leading scorer Tyler Kalinoski (16.1 ppg) was held to a season-low six points. Davidson, though, got enough from its other top players for an 80-68 victory, its seventh in a row.

Freshman Peyton Aldridge, averaging 12.4 points, had his second-best scoring performance with 22, and Jack Gibbs (15.6 ppg) had 19 along with a personal-high 11 rebounds.

"I couldn't be prouder of what they've accomplished during this first month of the season. I could not be prouder of a team," coach Bob McKillop said. "I think what has surprised me is ... the firepower that we've shown where we've been able to put points on the board and answer in so many different ways."

Davidson, receiving one vote in the latest AP poll, is 1-19 against Top 25 teams since its run to the regional finals in the 2008 NCAA tournament and has lost 11 consecutive such matchups. In the only one this season, the Wildcats were beaten 90-72 by then-No. 6 North Carolina on Nov. 22.

They also lost 70-57 to a 25th-ranked Virginia team Nov. 16, 2013. The Cavaliers held Davidson 21.5 points under its final scoring average of 2013-14 and to a season-low 30.6 percent shooting in their seventh consecutive win in the series.

Virginia's Mike Tobey had a team-leading 18 points in that game - one shy of a career high - and is coming off his best scoring performance of this season with 15 points and 10 rebounds against Harvard. Malcolm Brogdon added 17 last year against Davidson and is averaging 16.0 in four games this month on 59.5 percent shooting.

You May Like