Bennett expecting 'war' against Hokies on Tuesday

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- It's been four seasons since the Virginia men's basketball team lost to a top 10 opponent at John Paul Jones Arena. The Wahoos have won their last six home games against teams ranked in the top 10 nationally by the Associated Press.

Virginia Tech (14-1/3-0) will be ranked ninth in the AP poll when the Hokies make their annual visit on Tuesday night. UVA (15-0/3-0) will take the floor at No. 4 in the country. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools when both are top 10 teams.

Those national and conference stipulations can be added to a matchup that's already loaded with rivalry implications, plus the recent history of the Hokies' win at JPJ last season. But UVA men's basketball coach Tony Bennett chooses to strip the rivalry aspect away, and focus on a compelling showdown of two of the top teams in the country.

"Both teams try to play good defense, try to be efficient offensively. We're playing some good basketball," Bennett said Monday. "Take away, obviously, Virginia-Virginia Tech, you're early in the ACC so you're fighting for footing and grounding, and wanting to be as good as you can."

The Hokies were unranked last February when they became the only visiting team all season to win at JPJ, a 61-60 overtime victory that wasn't enough to stop UVA from ascending to No. 1 in the country days later. It was Tech's first win in Charlottesville since 2012. The two teams have split their home-and-home conference series in each of the past three seasons.

"We respect their program. I think they respect us. I think it's a healthy competition and a healthy rivalry," Bennett said. "I would assume it's a little different than football, but absolutely you want to play well against your rival."

Virginia Tech has never won consecutive visits to John Paul Jones Arena. Bennett has only lost back-to-back games against the Hokies once -- in 2010, his first season at UVA.

As of Monday, both teams were among the top five in the country this season in scoring defense, with the Wahoos ranked first (51.2 ppg allowed) and Tech fourth (57.3 ppg). According to Ken Pomeroy, both teams rank in the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency as well, with UVA sixth (117.8) and the Hokies eighth (117.6) in points scored per 100 possessions.

Bennett expects Tuesday night to be a "battle of possessions."

"To me, whoever's right," Bennett said. "Both teams are certainly capable of beating each other, and it's whoever's right, and can execute offensively and be real stingy defensively. That's what it comes down to when you play against a team like Virginia Tech, and I'm sure it'll be a war."



 
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