'Hoos maintain high level through season's first half

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- The Virginia men's basketball team hasn't just won 18 of its first 19 games this season. The Wahoos have been dismantling opponents for most of the season.

Saturday's 82-55 win at Notre Dame marked the third time in UVA's last four games -- and 10th time this season -- that the Cavaliers never trailed. The Wahoos are winning by an average of 21.5 points per game, the second-best margin of victory in the country.

UVA coach Tony Bennett says this season's success can be traced back to the lessons of last year -- when the Wahoos won both the ACC regular season and tournament titles, but then suffered a historic loss to No. 16 seed UMBC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"Absolutely you grow from those experiences. How can you not?" Bennett said Monday morning. "And I always bring in the success from last year, and also the loss and the failures of last year. Did you apply that. Did it make you a hungrier team. That response is in how hard the guys worked in the spring, the summer, the fall, and how we’re trying to play."

As of Monday, Virginia is again the best defensive team in the country this season, giving up just 52.6 points per game. Offensively, through 19 games, this has been highest-scoring team of Bennett's 10 UVA seasons, averaging 74.1 points per game.

According to Ken Pomeroy's points-per-100-possessions NCAA rankings, UVA has been the No. 3 team in the country in defensive efficiency (84.7), and No. 2 nationally in offensive efficiency (122.1).

Shortly after Bennett spoke to reporters at John Paul Jones Arena on Monday, the new Associated Press national rankings were released, with the 18-1 Wahoos (6-1 ACC) holding onto the No. 3 spot for a second straight week.

UVA visits No. 23 NC State on Tuesday night. The Wolfpack improved to 16-4 overall (4-3 ACC) by rallying from a six-point hole with 26.5 seconds to play to beat Clemson 69-67 on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by sophomore guard Braxton Beverly.

UVA hasn't lost to the Wolfpack since the 2013 ACC Tournament, and it's been 10 years since the Cavaliers last lost to NC State in Raleigh. Bennett is 10-2 against the Wolfpack at Virginia.

"We like to say, just concern yourself with the moment, with today, for tomorrow’s got enough concerns of its own. And that, I think that mindset," Bennett said on Monday. "You don’t assume, just because you got off to a 12-0 start that hey, every time you’re going to. But are you ready, and can you play the majority, or win the majority or battle the majority of the possessions."



 
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