No. 15 Virginia looks to snap skid vs. short-handed Hurricanes
Virginia knows every loss continues to damage its NCAA Tournament seeding.
The 15th-ranked Cavaliers (15-6, 11-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) need to regroup quickly and will try to snap their three-game losing streak on Monday night at home against struggling Miami (7-15, 3-14).
After losing at Florida State and at Duke, things got worse for Virginia when it suffered its first home loss to a conference opponent this season against North Carolina State, 68-61, on Wednesday night.
Sam Hauser had 21 points and Jay Huff poured in 19 points and 11 rebounds, but the Cavaliers fell behind 17-4 after the game's first nine minutes and led for only 48 seconds.
Hauser (15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds per game) and Huff (13.6 points, 7.0 rebounds) lead Virginia on the offensive end.
Virginia's defense is still allowing only 60.6 points per game. But the Cavaliers' three opponents during the losing streak have shot 45.5 percent or better from the field and 39.1 percent or better from 3-point range.
"We haven't become gritty enough or tough enough to lean on our defense to hold us in there," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "We did it a couple times this year, but not consistently enough."
And UVA has had trouble making key plays late in games at both ends of the floor.
Virginia scored just four points over the final 2:40 against the Seminoles. The Cavs went scoreless for the final 3:10 against the Blue Devils.
And the Cavaliers drew no closer than four points down the stretch against the Wolfpack as they couldn't come up with key defensive stops.
"You can acknowledge you've got limitations but you've got to lay it on the line when it comes to winning time or get a stop time," Bennett said. "That's where you need everything and that's when we just all of a sudden, a lapse here or there or we forgot something, 'whoops,' and then those things, those are those little decisions that you can't absorb."
The Hurricanes have dropped five in a row and nine of their past 10 games.
After allowing an average of 87.5 points to their previous two opponents -- FSU and Georgia Tech -- in consecutive blowout losses, Miami played Clemson tougher on Saturday before falling 66-58.
The Hurricanes played with only six scholarship players on Saturday and one was senior guard Elijah Olaniyi, who bruised his thigh in the Canes' previous game against FSU. Olaniyi finished with eight points and nine rebounds as Miami played again without guards Chris Lykes (ankle) and Harlond Beverly (back) -- both ruled out for the season -- as well as Earl Timberlake (shoulder) and Rodney Miller (back).
"We're trying our best," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "That's all I can ask."
Isaiah Wong, the Hurricanes' most consistent performer during their trying 2020-21 season, finished with 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Wong followed up his 29-point performance on 9-of-16 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, against FSU.
"He had half our points, he's making shots, distributing the ball pretty well, playing pretty hard on defense, but Clemson was on fire early," Larranaga said.
Anthony Walker also had 13 points and 10 rebounds. But Clemson shot 49 percent from the field and sank 11 of 22 shots from 3-point range.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 28, 2021