No. 6 Virginia gets back to work against Cleveland State

Dec 18, 2014 - 3:22 PM Charlottesville, VA ( - Hitting the floor for the first time in 12 days, the sixth-ranked Virginia Cavaliers will play host to the Cleveland State Vikings in a non-conference clash at John Paul Jones Arena.

Tony Bennett's Cavaliers have followed up last year's ACC title with a strong start to the 2014-15 campaign. Virginia seeks its first 10-0 start to a season since 2000-01 and was last in action on Dec. 6, routing VCU on the road (74-57) improving to a perfect 9-0 on the year. The Cavs have won 15 straight games at home and have held 15 straight opponents under 70 points.

Gary Waters' Vikings have a tall task indeed on Thursday. Cleveland State has failed to gain or lose any ground through 10 games played, sitting at an even 5-5 on the year. The team was able to get back to .500 last time out, making light work of Mount Vernon on Monday, 86-40.

The only other previous meeting between these two teams took place in the 2009 Cancun Challenge, a game won by Virginia, 76-65.

Scoring points in bunches has not been the norm for Cleveland State this season, as the 86 points against Mount Vernon marked a season-high for the Vikings. CSU found its offensive rhythm against Mount Vernon, shooting .533 from the floor overall, including 9-of-17 from behind the arc (.529). Junior guard Trey Lewis was unstoppable in the win, accounting for all nine of the team's 3-pointers (tying a school record) and finishing up with a career-high 32 points. Junior forward Anton Grady was instrumental in the win as well, pouring in 18 points for Cleveland State.

Scoring hasn't come quite so easy on the season as a whole for CSU, as the team generates a modest 67.5 ppg on .420 shooting. The defensive effort has been there though, with foes managing just 59.1 ppg against the Vikings. Lewis is a dynamic scorer and definitely headlines the Cleveland State attack at a hefty 19.0 ppg. Despite his team-high 133 shot attempts on the year, Lewis is also tops on the team in assists (3.9 apg). Grady is a distant second in the scoring column and the only other Viking currently in double digits at 11.8 ppg. However, senior forward Marlin Mason (9.9 ppg) is eager to join the group.

If Cleveland State thought scoring points in bunches was difficult up to this point, the Vikings are in for a rude awakening against the stingy Cavaliers. A staple of the Virginia attack under Bennett, the team is at it once again in 2014-15, leading the nation in scoring defense (47.4 ppg) and ranking third in field-goal percentage defense (.321). In addition, Virginia ranks second nationally with an inflated +14.4 rebounding margin. The Cavaliers also possess solid scoring depth, with three of the five starters averaging double figures at this time. Junior guard Justin Anderson tops the group with his 15.8 ppg. Fellow juniors Anthony Gill and Malcolm Brogdon round things out with 13.0 and 12.6 ppg, respectively.

VCU is a solid team on the national level,.but Virginia made light work of the Rams last time out, holding their foe to just 57 points on .383 shooting. The Cavaliers also dominated play on the boards, outrebounding VCU, 35-21. Anderson had another strong game, going 6-of-7 from the floor (3-of-4 from behind the arc) and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line to finish with a game-high 21 points. Gill poured in 18 points, while Brogdon finished with 15.

The Cavaliers have carried last season's strong campaign into 2014-15 and it will be interesting to see just how much momentum will play a factor in its ACC slate. For now though, the Vikings won't represent much of a challenge, as Virginia should continue to roll over the opposition.

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