CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Mike Rhoades was a VCU assistant coach when the Rams came into John Paul Jones Arena five years ago and beat Virginia. He was also the Rams' head coach last year, when UVA won by nine in Richmond.
Rhoades and the 7-2 Rams will return to Charlottesville this weekend for the first time since Treveon Graham's 3-pointer with a second left in regulation gave VCU a 59-56 victory on November 12, 2013. That game marked the VCU program's last road win over a ranked team. On Sunday, they'll face a UVA team that's 8-0 and ranked fourth nationally.
"You have to have mental toughness against them, and you can't get rattled. You know you're going to have some really tough possessions, and you've got to move on from them to be ready," Rhoades said. "You can't allow one or two bad possessions, three bad possessions in a row to make it six, seven, eight, nine. And that's when they go on incredible runs they have and shut you out."
Four of UVA's eight wins have come at JPJ -- by an average of 36 points. George Washington is the only visiting team to crack the 50-point plateau against the Cavaliers this season. Overall, UVA is giving up 51.5 points per game -- once again good for the best scoring defense in the country.
That November 2013 game is one of just three home losses on Virginia's non-conference schedule over the past five-plus seasons. It's one of just two VCU wins in 14 all-time meetings between the two schools. The Cavaliers won 74-57 at the Siegel Center on December 6, 2014, then won again in Richmond 76-67 last November 17.
The Rams picked up their seventh win on Wednesday, when they traveled to Austin and beat former VCU coach Shaka Smart's Texas team 54-53. The Rams began the weekend with the best scoring defense in the Atlantic 10, giving up 61.6 points per game. VCU also leads the conference in field goal percentage defense (36.4 percent), steals (76) and tunovers forced per game (17.22).
"Great respect for that program. And as we've talked about, playing teams in the state, we haven't shied away from that," said UVA head coach Tony Bennett. "They're a quality opponent, and they play an athletic, aggressive style. Coach Rhoades is an excellent coach. It'll be hard-fought game, of course. And I hope it'll be a great atmosphere."