Harvard hits road to challenge No. 6 Virginia

Dec 21, 2014 - 3:25 PM Charlottesville, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - The sixth-ranked Virginia Cavaliers continue a three-game homestand to close out the 2014 calendar year, as they play host to the Harvard Crimson on Sunday afternoon at John Paul Jones Arena.

Tony Bennett's Cavaliers have picked up right where they left off last season, as they made an improbable to both the ACC regular-season and tournament titles. This year's squad looks just as strong, as the team has reeled off 10 straight victories, including a 70-54 win over Cleveland State to open this current homestand. The Cavs are now seeking their first 11-0 start to a season since the 1992-93 campaign.

Tommy Amaker's Crimson started the year in the Top-25, but an inexplicable loss to Holy Cross in game No. 2 quickly showed them the exit from the polls. Harvard is inching closer and closer to regaining its early season status, having won six straight games since, moving to 7-1 on the year with a 70-56 win over Boston University on Dec. 8. The Crimson have been idle since that contest.

This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood.

The Crimson are like the Cavaliers in that it is defense that fuels the team's success. Harvard currently ranks a solid 19th nationally in scoring defense (56.1 ppg), while holding foes to just .374 shooting. Offensively, the team has five players averaging 8.5 ppg or better, but that depth is a little deceiving, as only 2013-14 Ivy League Player of the Year Wesley Saunders is in double digits. He is the top scorer in the Ancient Eight and ranks in the top-20 nationally at an impressive 20.1 ppg. A do-it-all type of player, Saunders also makes his presence felt in rebounding (7.1 rpg), assists (4.5 apg) and steals (2.8 spg). Steve Moundou-Missi is a distant second in the scoring column at 9.0 ppg, with three players tied for third (8.5 ppg).

It was once again the Saunders' show last time out, as the senior star led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists against Boston University. Saunders finished the day with 15 points, seven boards and a season-high eight assists. Corbin Miller chipped in with 13 points, while Siyani Chambers tacked on another 10.

If Harvard plays really good defense, than Virginia's can only be described as great. The Cavaliers, known for their defensive grit under Bennett, are at it again this season, ranking second nationally in scoring defense (48.1 ppg) and third in field-goal percentage defense (.325). The team is also in the top five in the country in rebounding margin (+13.6). Three of the team's five starters are averaging double figures, providing scoring depth for the Cavs. Justin Anderson headlines the trio with 15.8 ppg. He is followed by Anthony Gill and Malcolm Brogdon, who net 13.0 and 12.9 ppg, respectively.

The Cavaliers once again displayed suffocating defense last time out against Cleveland State, holding the Vikings to a mere 18 first-half points and taking a 13-point lead into the break. Virginia forced only seven turnovers in the game, but outscored CSU 21-7 at the free-throw line. It was the "big three" once again that led Virginia offensively. Anderson and Brogdon finished with 16 points apiece, while Gill added 13, while grabbing a team-best eight rebounds.

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