Different paths lead up to Cavaliers and Hokies clash
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- There is no love lost across all sports between Virginia and Virginia Tech, but on the hardwood there is an admiration between the two head coaches.
"Virginia Tech has had very good coaches over their time that I've been here, but Coach [Mike] Young he's a good one," UVA coach Tony Bennett said, "I respect him, he's a good man, he cares for the players I know that. And I know it's a rivalry and I'm supposed to say hateful things and all that. But you look at quality and you recognize it."
When the Hokies visit No. 10 Virginia on Wednesday night at John Paul Jones Arena, it will be the sixth matchup between Bennett and Mike Young in the Commonwealth Clash. Since Young arrived at Virginia Tech in 2019, the Cavaliers are 3-2 against their in-state rivals with both losses coming in Blacksburg the last two seasons.
"I admire the matchup, I admire the rivalry, I admire playing those guys, I admire their team, always have, they play the right way," Young said, "There's nothing goofy, no smoke and mirrors, I think both teams know exactly what the other is going to do."
The statistics paint the picture of similar teams with Virginia first in the ACC in defense (59.4 points allowed per game) and Virginia Tech third (65.8), while both teams hover in the middle of the pack in offense. Both the Hokies and Cavaliers also ranks among the conference's leaders in turnover margin.
But the two rivals meet on Wednesday heading in different directions with UVA winners of five of their last six, while the Hokies have lost five-straight. Last season Virginia Tech had a similar start to ACC play losing their first four games before rebounding to win the ACC Tournament.
"Now we're six games in we've got a bunch more to go here, but to rattle off three, four, five, what have you, we've got to play more sound on both ends of the floor," Young said, "Are we capable? Absolutely we're capable we've done it through the first 12-13 games. Time to play better basketball and get back on the right track."
Coinciding with the Hokies recent slump is the absence of 2022 ACC Tournament MVP Hunter Cattoor, who has missed the last four games with an elbow injury. Young says all signs point to Cattoor being available again for their trip to Charlottesville giving Virginia Tech a big boost.
Young views Cattoor not only as a sharpshooter with gravitational pull, but also the teams best perimeter defense heading into a matchup with Virginia's veteran backcourt of Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman and Armaan Franklin. While Young says the senior guard is "not the cure all", Bennett knows the different a healthy Cattoor can make.
"Take Kyle Guy off of our team, when you play a guy who shoots it like that and as good as he is," Bennett said, "But they were playing great basketball before, they were I believe 11-1, certainly one of the best teams in our league. And losing him some guys got some experience, they lost some close games I know that, but he changes the dynamic in terms of spacing. When you're making shots or you have threats out there it opens up spacing and just his experience and his toughness, so I think that certainly had an impact on them and they're a really good team and they play hard defensively."
Virginia Tech have not beaten Virginia at JPJ since Young arrived with their last win coming in 2018, but Bennett respects the challenge even a slumping Mike Young-coached Hokies team provides.
"His teams play hard defensively and they're tough to score against, they run good offense and he's made them a high quality team," Bennett said.