January 11, 2016

Virginia won in Charlottesville. Miami won in Coral Gables. And while Washington, D.C. might be considered thick Cavaliers country, there is the matter of Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga being a favorite in the nation's capital for past postseason magic.

No matter the location, nothing has come easy in recent Virginia-Miami matchups.

ACC tournament seeds have thus far held form, and if the second-seeded Cavaliers can keep that up Friday night at the Verizon Center and win the season series with the third-seeded Hurricanes, they'll earn a shot at their second tournament title in three years.

Fourth-ranked Virginia (25-6) felt every bit at home in Thursday's 72-52 win over Georgia Tech, both in terms of environment and play.

"Coming out of the tunnel, I saw those orange shirts," said Anthony Gill, who had 12 points and eight rebounds. "I was just stunned."

Malcolm Brogdon seemed to feed off it most, scoring a game-high 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting. The senior guard has averaged 22.8 points on 57.5 percent shooting - 50 from 3-point range - over the last six games.

Virginia's four-game winning streak started after its 64-61 loss in Miami on Feb. 22, and the Cavaliers have responded by hitting 45.9 percent of their 3s with wins by an average of 13.5 points.

"I think we're collectively in a good place," coach Tony Bennett said. "As I've said to these guys many times, they're capable. They can. We just always after each game answer the question, Will we be ready? Will we play the right way?

"They are certainly ready to play. They should feel the right way about that. But they know who they are. That's what I love about them. I've seen that over time. These guys are experienced guys right here."

The teams have split the last eight meetings with three going to at least one overtime and seven being decided by single digits. Since the start of last season, they've met three times with Virginia winning twice and all three being decided by single digits with one in OT.

The season series started with a 66-58 Virginia win on Jan. 12 before No. 11 Miami (25-6) returned the favor. Brogdon averaged 24.0 points on 57.6 percent shooting in those games, while Hurricanes guard Davon Reed scored 16.0 on 68.8 percent.

Both teams have had success against the Top 25 with Virginia going 6-1 and Miami at 5-2.

"It's going to be a fun game to play and a fun game to watch," Miami point guard Angel Rodriguez said. "Two good teams going at it."

The Cavaliers did a good job on Hurricanes top scorer Sheldon McClellan, who was limited to 12.0 points per game on 31.8 percent. McClellan, however, overcame a four-game stretch of shooting 36.7 percent to score 21 on 8-of-12 shooting in Thursday's 88-82 win over streaking Virginia Tech.

Miami, led by the coach who took George Mason to the Final Four in 2006 through the Verizon Center, rebounded after ending the regular season with a 77-62 loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday. Aside from that game, it too has been hot from outside over a 4-1 span, making 40.2 percent and 10 of 19 against the Cavaliers.

Rodriguez matched a season high with 19 points Thursday and has averaged 15.0 on 48.8 percent in his last four games.

"Angel and Sheldon, these guys have been just tremendous," Larranaga said. "They come with a lot of enthusiasm and energy and execution, and tonight when Angel sees his opportunities, he's going to take advantage of them. Sheldon the same way."

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