November 30, 2015

Virginia's plodding, methodical offensive approach for which it has been known appears to be a thing of the past as it continues to score at a pace not seen in years.

The 10th-ranked Cavaliers still have the same stifling defense, though.

All of that could be bad news for host Ohio State, which if off to its worst start under coach Thad Matta and heads into Tuesday night's matchup in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge looking to snap a three-game skid.

Virginia (5-1) has scored at least 80 points in each game during a four-game winning streak since losing 73-68 at George Washington on Nov. 16, the first time it has done that since 2006-07.

The Cavaliers, who haven't hit 80 in five straight since a seven-game run in 2001, scored that many points 15 times in 200 games prior to this season since coach Tony Bennett took over in 2009-10. They're averaging 81.0 points, far better than the 66.2 average in 2013-14 that marks their highest under Bennett.

Virginia's aggressiveness offensively certainly hasn't hurt its defense, either. It is allowing an average of 58.3 points with opponents shooting 39.1 percent after leading the country in scoring defense (51.5) and ranking third in defensive field-goal percentage (36.7) last season.

"It's nice to be able to score some points," Bennett said after Wednesday's 80-54 win over Lehigh. "I know it'll continue to get more challenging, but as long as our defense stays tough, and we have the right kind of pace offensively - how hard we play, how fast - that's the balance."

Malcolm Brogdon is averaging a team-high 16.7 points after netting 23 against Lehigh. Fellow senior Anthony Gill is scoring 12.5 per game for the Cavs, who have nine players averaging at least 10.8 minutes.

"I think our biggest strength this season, besides our defense, is our depth," Brogdon said. "I think we have multiple guards that can step in and play as well as starters, and then I think we have bigs in the rotation that can really play and can really contribute as well."

Matta sees the differences, too. He was asked at his Monday press conference about Virginia's slow place, and he quickly corrected the reporter.

"They've changed from last year. They're playing a lot faster," Matta said. "They can play any way you want them to play and still be effective. I was shocked when I saw them this year."

Ohio State (2-3) has lost three of its first five for the first time since 2003-04, one season before Matta came to Columbus. Its three-game skid includes home losses to Texas-Arlington and Louisiana Tech, as well as Friday's 81-76 overtime loss to Memphis in Miami.

The Buckeyes committed 19 turnovers and lost for the first time when scoring at least 75 points since the 2007 national championship game, snapping a streak of 113 straight victories when reaching that total.

Matta is going through a bit of a rebuilding year with seven freshmen and four sophomores on the roster. Junior Marc Loving is the only upperclassman remaining after senior Jake Lorbach officially was shut down due to problems with concussions.

"By a couple weeks from now, we really have to get a couple things we can really hang our hat on," Matta said. "That's the big challenge right now. We've got a long way to go in terms of identifying who we are as a basketball team."

This will be the first meeting since Ralph Sampson guided Virginia to an 89-73 victory in 1981.

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