CHARLOTTESVILLE (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – As the madness of March inches closer, the Miami Hurricanes appear to be gearing up for a run at something special.
Two teams with identical records that are trending in opposite directions meet in a key ACC clash Monday as Miami visits struggling Virginia.
The Hurricanes have won two straight and four of five after Saturday’s 71-65 victory over Clemson while 15th-ranked Virginia has dropped three straight and five of the past seven contests.
“We know every game is crucial at this time,” Miami senior forward Kamari Murphy, who scored a career-high 15 on Saturday, told reporters. “With guys out, our guys’ motto in the locker room has been to ‘find a way.’ Everybody’s stepping up.”
Second-leading scorer Ja’Quan Newton (15.0) will miss his third straight game for violating team rules as the Hurricanes start a stretch in which they play three of four on the road.
The Cavaliers lead the nation in scoring defense (55.8), but are giving up 66.2 per game over the last five – primarily due to their shooting woes on the other end.
“Offensively, we’ve struggled,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told reporters Saturday. “It’s no mystery we don’t score a ton inside, so when we’re missing some perimeter shots – some were pretty good shots – that puts a lot of pressure on us defensively.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT MIAMI (18-8, 8-6 ACC): The Hurricanes are not a deep team as it is, and without Newton that makes the hard work required on the defensive end even more difficult.
“Part of the key for us is being able to hold people under 70,” coach Jim Larranaga told reporters Saturday. “If we can do that and do some good things offensively, then we have a good chance.”
Senior guard Davon Reed leads the team in scoring (15.7) and 3-point field goals (67, 41.4 percent) while freshman guard Bruce Brown (11.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists) has been productive.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (18-8, 8-6): The Cavaliers have found ways to win games without boasting several productive scorers and it may be starting to catch up with them.
Senior guard London Perrantes (12.6) is the only player scoring in double figures – after averaging 15.2 in the last six contests – while leading the team in assists (3.8) and junior guard Marial Shayok (9.7) is next.
Junior forward Isaiah Wilkins tops the team in rebounding (6.3) and freshman guard Kyle Guy is third in the league in 3-point shooting (46.6) despite missing all three attempts against North Carolina.
- Perrantes is three 3-pointers away from becoming the seventh player in Virginia history to reach 200 in his career and he can tie Ted Jeffries for fourth with his 127th start Monday.
- Murphy tops the Hurricanes in rebounding (7.6) and is shooting 52.9 percent from the field after draining 19-of-23 shots the last four games.
- The Cavaliers have won four of the last five meetings, including a 73-68 triumph in the ACC tournament semifinals last March.
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