Recent change of pace hurting Virginia

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Defense-first mentality missing in loss to North Carolina

With the Virginia basketball team's recent discovery of offense, have the Cavaliers lost their identity?

When Virginia fell at North Carolina 93-81 on Saturday, the stunner wasn't so much that Virginia lost but how. The 93 points were 24 more than the Cavaliers had surrendered in any game this season under defensive-minded coach Tony Bennett.

Up next
Virginia at Miami
When » Tuesday, 9 p.m.
Where » BankUnited Center,
Coral Gables, Fla.
TV » ESPNU

The output wasn't the only troubling aspect of the defeat. UNC shot 49.2 percent from the floor and 46.4 from beyond the arc, a radical departure from the figures the stingy Cavaliers typically yield -- 37.9 percent and 29.8 percent. Virginia also was outrebounded by the most decisive margin this year 33-24.

With Virginia (18-7, 8-4) lurking on the NCAA tournament bubble, there is much at stake Tuesday night at No. 2 Miami (21-3, 12-0). "We really need to tighten the screws," Bennett said. "We probably need to come up with a special performance defensively."

Saturday's defensive outage came after Virginia had won seven of eight games. In its previous three wins, however, Virginia had won in unfamiliar fashion, scoring an average of 77 points in games with a tempo faster than the Cavaliers typically favor. The 174 combined points at UNC were the most in a Virginia game in four seasons under Bennett.

"When we couldn't stop Carolina in that stretch, I think that's where you probably gotta slow it down a little bit and get better shots at times without passing up good shots," Bennett said. "That's who we are. That's why we've played some good basketball."

When Virginia controlled the pace in January against UNC in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers won 61-52.

Miami has shown an ability to thrive at any pace, winning Sunday at Clemson 45-43 a week after running past the uptempo Tar Heels 87-61. On Tuesday, the Hurricanes can expect the Cavaliers to try to get more control of the pace.

"I tell my team almost daily that every game is different, every opponent is different, the style of play will be different," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "I don't put much stock in that."

In Virginia's effort to win for the first time in six tries at Miami, Bennett will look for senior point guard Jontel Evans to set the pace.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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