Liberty heads up 29 North to take on the University of Virginia for a Saturday afternoon matchup inside John Paul Jones Arena. The last time the two teams met, the Flames came away with the upset victory. Can this year’s squad replicate that feat? Find out in the Virginia Primer.
1. Team introduction. The Cavaliers were ranked in the preseason top 25 before they lost to VCU 59-56 on November 12th. Virginia comes into the game with a 3-1 record with wins over James Madison, Davidson, and Navy. The Cavaliers are led by head coach Tony Bennett who is in his 5th season at the helm. Coming into this season, Virginia is 76-53 under Bennett and their record has improved each season under his watch. Last season, Virginia finished 23-12 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT. Hopes are high in Charlottesville this season as they look to make a return to the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers were selected to finish 4th in the 15 team ACC. A familiar face to FlamesNation will be on the sidelines for Virginia as former Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay is Bennett’s top assistant. McKay has been under Bennett for each of his 5 seasons in Charlottesville.
2. Offense. Virginia is averaging 63.5 points per game in their first 4 games of the season while shooting 47.3% from the field. The Cavaliers are shooting a putrid 12/52 from 3 this season which is just 23%. Virginia is also averaging 14 turnovers per game. Virginia’s top returning scorer, Joe Harris, has struggled thus far as the senior is averaging 10 points per game while shooting just 30% from 3. Harris averaged 16.3 points per game while shooting over 42% from 3 a season ago.
3. Defense. Tony Bennett coached teams have always been known for their defensive play. The Cavaliers are holding their opponents to under 50 points per game and just 34% shooting from the field. The Cavaliers are also outrebounding their opponents 42-26 this season. A season ago the Cavaliers held their opponents to 55.6 points per game on 38.8% shooting from the field.
4. Player Turnover. Virginia returns most of their contributors from a season ago with the exceptions of Paul Jesperson, Jontel Evans, and Taylor Barnette. Jesperson started 33 of 35 games a season ago while averaging 4.7 points and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 37% from 3. Point guard Jontel Evans, who started 22 games a season ago, averaged 4.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. Barnette played in 26 games a season ago while averaging 2.6 points per game.
5. Possible Starters. A look at the likely starting line-up for UVA…
Guard: Malcolm Brogdon (#15), a 6’5″, 217-pound sophomore, has assumed the role of starting point guard following Jontel Evans’ departure. Brogdon is off to a good start to his sophomore season as he is averaging a team-leading 12.3 points and a solid 5.5 rebounds per game. He is also 5/10 shooting from downtown. Brogdon leads the team with 7 steals. Brogdon’s length is likely to cause problems for the Flames smaller guards.
Guard: Selected to the ACC preseason first-team, Joe Harris (#12), a 6’6″, 225-pound senior, has been a disappointment in his first 4 games of the season. Known as a shooter, the senior guard’s numbers are down drastically from a season ago. Harris is averaging 10 points per game on 30% shooting from 3. He has the knack to get hot and fill it up on any given night.
Guard: Starting at the 3rd guard spot for Virginia is Justin Anderson (#1), a 6’6″, 227-pound sophomore. Anderson is averaging 5 points and 5.5 rebounds in the first 4 games of the season while playing about 22 minutes per game.
Forward: Anthony Gill (#13), a 6’8″, 230-pound sophomore, is 4th on the team in scoring at 9 points per game so far this season. Gill is shooting 15/18 from the field which is 83.3%.
Forward: Akil Mitchell (#25), a 6’8″, 235-pound senior, is one of the few veterans on the sophomore-laden Cavalier squad. Mitchell is averaging 8 points and 4.8 rebounds this season, and has gotten to the line a team-high 17 times this season.
6. Key Reserves. Some other key contributors…
Forward: Mike Tobey (#10), a 6’11”, 253-pound sophomore, has attempted as many shots as any other Cavalier this season while playing in less than 20 minutes per game. Tobey is 2nd on the team in scoring at 11.5 points per game. He is shooting a shade under 62% from the field on the season, and adds a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game.
Forward: Darion Atkins (#32), a 6’8″, 235-pound junior, is another big body the Cavaliers have to throw in the mix. Atkins is averaging 4 points and 6 rebounds this year.
Guard: London Perrantes (#23), a 6’2″, 189-pound freshman, is playing 27.5 minutes per game in his first 4 collegiate games. Perrantes is 1/15 from the field and 1/10 from 3 to start his career.
7. Prediction. There’s no question about it that the Cavaliers are favored to win the game. Virginia expects to be in the NCAA Tournament, and a home loss to Liberty would throw a wrench in their plans. The Cavaliers length across their roster, but especially in their backcourt, will likely cause problems for the undersized Flames. Don’t expect a repeat performance from Liberty’s last trip to Charlottesville when they upset the Cavaliers. Virginia 72 Liberty 51