No. 22 Miami to be challenged by No. 6 Virginia

Head coach Jim Larranaga yells at the team during Miami's win over North Caronlina State on Saturday, Dec. 10 at the Watsco Center.

No. 22 Miami’s (11-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) matchup against No. 2 Virginia (8-1, 1-0 ACC) is a season-defining game for both squads.

With two out of the three best records in the ACC, these teams will be competing for an early advantage in the conference standings.

This game against the Cavaliers could not come at a better time for Miami. It is currently on a seven-game win streak that has featured domination, resilience and withstanding team chemistry against its opponents. Some games have been blowouts and others have been comebacks, but the ‘Canes have found a way to win every game since they lost to Maryland on Nov. 20.

Virginia is coming off its first loss of the season to Houston by a score of 69-61.

Miami’s most recent win in its streak was a 91-76 victory against St. Francis (Pa.) at the Watsco Center. The victory improved UM’s home record to 8-0, while all of Miami’s starters scored at least 10 points.

“This team plays for each other, we play together and we gotta keep that same energy,” Miami sophomore guard Bensley Joseph said.

Joseph made his first start of the season against the Red Flash, scoring a career-high 14 points, dishing out six assists and grabbing seven rebounds. He filled in for guard Nijel Pack, who sat out the game with an illness. The Kansas State transfer will return against Virginia.

Miami’s offense has been the major catalyst for the win streak.

Shooting 48.7% from the field, the Hurricanes rank second in the ACC. Miami is also second in the conference with 15.9 assists per game.

Virginia’s tough defense will be difficult for Miami to score against. The Cavaliers allow their opponents to score just under 59.1 points a game, which is the second-lowest mark in the ACC and the 16th-lowest in the nation.

The Cavaliers’ success starts with head coach Tony Bennett. Since his tenure at Virginia, Bennett has led the Cavaliers to five ACC titles and the school’s only National championship in 2019.

“I think he’s a great coach, I think he has a great system, his dad was a great coach and has put his players in a position to play really well at every position,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said.

This highly anticipated game will take place at the Watsco Center on Tuesday, with tip-off scheduled for 8:30 p.m.