After winning ugly to keep its perfect ACC streak intact, Miami won't have long to dwell on one of its worst performances of the season.
The Hurricanes, who moved up one spot to No. 2 in the rankings, will try to take another step toward clinching their first league basketball championship and win their 13th straight conference game on Tuesday night when they host Virginia.
Despite finishing with a season-low point total, Miami (21-3, 12-0) escaped with a 45-43 victory at Clemson on Sunday for its 13th consecutive victory overall.
The Hurricanes are off to the best start in ACC history since Duke went 16-0 en route to the league crown in the 1998-99 season. With six games remaining, they hold a three-game edge over the second-place Blue Devils and a four-game lead over the third-place Cavaliers (18-7, 8-4) heading into Tuesday's contest.
"Preparation will be very short, which is unfortunate because Virginia is such a good team," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said.
The Cavaliers, though, have struggled on the road with four losses in six conference games, and Larranaga's team has won all five of its ACC home games by an average of 21.2 points.
Senior Durand Scott (13.4), sophomore Shane Larkin (13.2) and senior Kenny Kadji (13.0) lead Miami's balanced attack, and the Hurricanes are hoping Larkin can regain his shooting touch. The point guard finished with seven points on 2-of-8 shooting on Sunday and had scored 17.6 per game on 61.1 percent shooting - including 16 for 30 from 3-point range - in his previous five.
After shooting just 34.6 percent from the floor and 3 of 19 from beyond the arc at Clemson, the Hurricanes appear poised to get back on track at home. They're averaging 75.5 points while hitting 42.4 percent from 3-point range in Coral Gables, Fla.
The Cavaliers rank near the top of the nation in scoring defense (54.0) but were shredded by the Tar Heels in a 93-81 loss at North Carolina on Saturday that stopped their three-game winning streak.
"You're not always going to shoot it that close, so you better be rock solid defensively," coach Tony Bennett said after his team shot 58.5 percent but allowed 13 3-pointers. "That's what we work on, that's how we prepare. To see that kind of get away from us is something that I think we really have to learn from."
While Virginia does have a non-conference win at Wisconsin and a victory over then-No. 18 North Carolina State, it also has three losses to Colonial Athletic Association teams - including an Old Dominion team that is 3-23 - and could greatly enhance its NCAA tournament chances with a marquee road victory.
Junior Joe Harris is having a breakout season for the Cavaliers, who have won seven of nine overall. The guard has averaged 25.0 points on 72.7 percent shooting - including 12 for 17 from 3-point range - in his last three games.
With a career-high 27 points against the Tar Heels, Harris became the program's first player since Roger Mason, Jr. in 2001-02 to score 20 or more in four consecutive games.
Junior Akil Mitchell also averages in double figures (12.6 ppg) and ranks third in the ACC with 8.8 rebounds per game.
Virginia has scored 70 or more points in four consecutive games for the first time since a six-game span in 2009-10. The Cavaliers are averaging 78.0 points and shooting 42 for 83 (50.6) from 3-point range during their current run.
They may have a difficult time extending that streak against Miami, which has held 10 straight opponents under 70 points at home.
The Hurricanes is 5-0 all-time at home against the Cavaliers, but lost 52-51 last season at Virginia in Larranaga's ACC debut.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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