Since Tony Bennett took over as coach at Virginia in 2009-10, he has won 16 of 18 meetings with Atlantic Coast Conference foe Georgia Tech, including each of the past nine.
On Saturday afternoon, when the Yellow Jackets host the No. 13 Cavaliers, they will try to solve Bennett’s distinctive pack-line defense and deliberate brand of offense.
Neither team enters in top form, each having lost two of its past three. While Georgia Tech (7-5, 0-2 ACC) has dropped a pair of league games by double-digit margins, Virginia (9-2, 1-1) has lost twice after opening with eight straight wins and reaching a No. 3 rank.
Georgia Tech’s loss in its most recent game, 79-66 to Clemson on Dec. 21, was particularly distressing. It was the Yellow Jackets’ first setback on their home floor this season, and they put up little resistance.
After Clemson took command with a 20-2 run in the first half, Georgia Tech never made a serious charge. During the dry spell that lasted nearly 10 minutes, the Yellow Jackets missed eight field-goal attempts and committed six turnovers.
Georgia Tech’s lack of inside presence was apparent throughout as Clemson amassed a 48-34 edge on points in the paint and a 40-28 advantage on the boards.
“That’s where us being a little bit smaller in some areas really got a little exposed,” Yellow Jackets coach Josh Pastner said.
Miles Kelly (17 points), Kyle Sturdivant (14 points) and Jalon Moore (12 points, nine rebounds) led Georgia Tech, which had no answer for Clemson’s P.J. Hall (25 points, 10 rebounds) or Hunter Tyson (14 points, 13 rebounds).
Afterward, Pastner said that nine days off would give his team time to regroup as it prepares for a “great challenge but a great opportunity against Virginia.”
“Next week will kind of be the first week — almost like in a preseason way — to maybe clean some things up to get ourselves reorganized and recentered,” Pastner said.
Virginia had seven days off before it took care of business Wednesday night at home against Albany, 66-46. Armaan Franklin (20 points) and Jayden Gardner (16 points) fueled an offense quarterbacked by Kihei Clark (eight points, 10 assists).
Albany was up 24-22 with five minutes left in the first half before Virginia went on an 18-0 run that bridged intermission.
Clark highlighted the spree with breakaway layups 11 seconds apart after he stole the ball twice from the same Albany player.
“I told him, ‘I’ve not seen a guy pick someone’s pocket two times in a row,'” said Bennett, who added that he later told Clark that he remembered former NBA player Muggsy Bogues pulling off the feat.
The Cavaliers were without defensive stopper Reece Beekman, who has been limited this month by ankle and hamstring issues. It was the first time the junior missed a game after playing in 70 straight.
“We need Reece as close as 100 percent as possible,” Bennett said. “I think (the hamstring is) improving. It just didn’t feel quite right.”
Another change to the lineup was the insertion of Ben Vander Plas at the 5 spot for Kadin Shedrick.
Vander Plas, who scored 20 points in a 66-64 loss at Miami on Dec. 20, got into early foul trouble and produced three points and two rebounds on Wednesday. Shedrick had eight points and six rebounds off the bench.
–Field Level Media