December 29, 2015

Virginia is scoring at its best rate in eight seasons, but it also still has the ability to grind out victories in defensive battles.

The fifth-ranked Cavaliers likely are going to need both aspects of their game Wednesday night.

Oakland and high-scoring guard Kay Felder visit John Paul Jones Arena looking to pull off the upset in Virginia's final nonconference game.

The Cavaliers' average of 76.0 points is their highest since a 76.8 mark in 2007-08, two seasons before Tony Bennett took over and instituted a defense-first mentality.

After beating then-No. 12 Villanova 86-75 on Dec. 19, Virginia (10-1) shot a season-low 38.9 percent and led for just 32 seconds three days later against California. However, it held the Golden Bears scoreless for long stretches in the second half, and London Perrantes' 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining in overtime gave Virginia a 63-62 victory.

The Cavs have won nine in a row since losing at George Washington on Nov. 16, scoring 67 or less in three of those victories and at least 82 in four of them. Their 50.4 field-goal percentage would be their highest since 1982-83.

They're also shooting 41.8 percent from 3-point range and 77.0 percent from the free-throw line. Both marks would be the best in school history.

"We're just finding a way. That's what we do," Perrantes said. "That's what we've been doing for the past three years. We showed that we can fight through it all."

Anthony Gill is averaging 14.5 points and is the first Virginia player to score in double figures in his first 11 games since Sean Singletary did it for the entire 2007-08 season. Malcolm Brogdon is averaging a team-high 16.5 and drained three 3s against Cal, including one in the final minute of OT.

He scored only 10 points, though, tied for his second-fewest of the season.

"He's proven, and that's what he does," Gill said of Brogdon after finishing with 17 points. "He hits big shots. He hit that 3 to get us back in the game, and coach Bennett drew that play up for him, knowing he didn't play well before that."

Oakland (8-4) likely won't be intimidated no matter what Virginia throws at it. The Golden Grizzlies have played three major-conference teams this month, including a four-point loss at Georgia on Dec. 1 and a 97-83 win at Washington on Dec. 19.

Possibly their best performance came last Tuesday, when they led top-ranked Michigan State by 13 at halftime before falling 99-93 in overtime.

Felder topped 30 points that day for the third straight game, then had 23 along with a season-high 13 assists and a career-best eight steals Monday as Oakland bounced back with a 101-93 win over Chicago State. He ranks second in the nation in scoring at 26.6 points per game and leads the country in assists with 9.3 per contest.

Oakland's 88.4 points per game rank fourth.

"We can do something special," said Felder, who had a career-high 38 points against Washington and 37 against the Spartans. "We're going to keep striving for greatness. We know what we're capable of."

Coach Greg Kampe isn't thrilled with making the trip to Virginia as the Grizzlies host Cleveland State on Saturday for the start of Horizon League play. Still, the Cavs should provide another good test for a team expected to contend for the conference title.

"It is what it is. My guess is we'll play pretty well (at Virginia)," Kampe said. "We seem to relish in playing games like that."

This will be the first meeting between the schools.

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