Defense key for No. 23 Cavaliers in ACC battle vs. No. 24 Hokies

Defense has always been the bedrock of coach Tony Bennett's teams at Virginia, but a couple of opponents have exposed cracks in the foundation this season.

Now the No. 23 Cavaliers (5-2, 1-0 ACC) will look to protect the perimeter when they host No. 24 Virginia Tech (8-1, 2-0) on Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville.

In losses this season to San Francisco and No. 1 Gonzaga, Virginia's opponents shot 47.8 percent (23 of 48) from 3-point distance. In its five wins, opponents shot just 28.4 percent (31 of 109) from behind the arc.

Notre Dame made only 5 of 20 attempts from downtown in a 66-57 loss to the visiting Cavaliers on Wednesday.

Virginia, which improved to 12-0 in ACC openers under Bennett, has won nine straight conference games dating to last season.

"We definitely made a step in the right direction," said Virginia's Sam Hauser, who posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Fighting Irish. "Gonzaga really exposed us at that end of the floor. That didn't leave a good taste in our mouths, so we took that personally. ... Obviously there are still some things to clean up, but we definitely improved for sure."

Teammate Kihei Clark, who had 19 points and five assists in the win, agreed.

"We did a better job of anticipating when (to be) getting to the ball and getting to shooters," Clark said. "I think we could still improve. There were times where we did make a couple mistakes."

Or as Bennett put it, "Better, but miles to go before we sleep. We've got a ways to go."

The UVA defense will be tested by the rival Hokies, who got a career-high 26 points from Keve Aluma and collected their fourth straight win with an 80-78 decision against Miami on Tuesday night. Four Virginia Tech players scored in double figures and six made at least one 3-pointer.

"I was really just trying to be aggressive and stay locked in at all times," said Aluma, a transfer from Wofford who leads the team with 16.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

The Hokies have made 10 or more 3-pointers in four games this season. In their only setback, they were held to 6-of-22 shooting from long range in a 75-55 loss to Penn State on Dec. 8.

Tech's top 3-point shooters are Nahiem Alleyne (18 of 44, 40.9 percent), Jalen Cone (17 of 46, 37.0 percent) and Hunter Cattoor (13 of 28, 46.4 percent).

Virginia swept both meetings last season, limiting Virginia Tech to 25.0 percent shooting from the perimeter (13 of 52). The Hokies have lost four straight in the series.

The Cavaliers' notoriously deliberate pace doesn't bother Hokies coach Mike Young, who said his team plays better when it's not going full throttle.

"There's a nice gear for us around three or four," Young said after the win against the Hurricanes. "But when we get up to five, we don't handle that very well. Our decision-making isn't very good at that gear."

--Field Level Media