No. 18 Virginia has spent most of this season playing beneath its new national championship banner, with only two true road games in two months.
The road gets rougher now as the Cavaliers (11-2, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) play three of their next four away from home, starting Tuesday night against Boston College (8-6, 2-1) in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Virginia is 1-1 on the road, opening the season with a 48-34 win at Syracuse on Nov. 6 and losing 69-40 at Purdue in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 4.
It’s a small sample size, but the offensive stats so far are troubling. The Cavaliers averaged just 44 points on 39.1 percent shooting, including 27.6 percent (8 of 29) from 3-point range, and turned the ball over 30 times in those two contests.
Both teams have won four of their last five games. Virginia is coming off a 65-39 victory over rival Virginia Tech on Saturday, while Boston College has been idle since an 88-49 loss at No. 2 Duke on Dec. 31.
The Cavaliers held the Hokies to their lowest point total since 1967. Sophomore point guard Kihei Clark scored a career-high 18 points, senior wing Braxton Key added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and sophomore guard Kody Stattmann had 10 points and eight boards.
“We were locked in,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “Did they miss some open shots? Yes. But did we make them shoot contested shots the majority of the time? Yes.”
Virginia has already held nine opponents under 50 points, the most in Division I, and limited four to fewer than 40 points. Boston College was held to 49 by Duke and lost 64-44 at Richmond on Nov. 30.
BC’s scoring average dropped to 66.3 points per game after its loss to the Blue Devils. Senior guard Derryck Thornton averages a team-high 13.3 per game, followed by freshman guard Jay Heath at 12.0 and senior forward Nik Popovic at 11.8.
The Eagles’ trip to Duke was disastrous, as they fell behind 45-19 at the break and finished with almost as many turnovers (19) as made field goals (21).
“We did a really poor job … of keeping the floor spaced and then making plays for other people,” Eagles coach Jim Christian said after the lopsided loss in Durham, N.C. “We tried to do way too much finishing plays, and they did a great job recovering and blocking shots or forcing us to miss.”
Forcing opponents to miss is Virginia’s bread and butter. The Cavaliers lead the nation in field-goal defense (34.0 percent) and rank 13th in 3-point defense (26.6 percent).
Senior forward Mamadi Diakite paces UVA with 13.2 points per game. Key averages 10.3 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds.
The Cavaliers have swept the last six meetings in the series, including an 83-56 decision at Boston College last January. Virginia hasn’t lost to the Eagles since 2013.
Boston College is 5-4 at home this season with losses to Belmont, DePaul, Saint Louis and Northwestern.
–Field Level Media