Miami’s men’s basketball team lost a four-point affair to Notre Dame at home Wednesday night but looks to get back on track Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, against conference foe Virginia.
The Canes (16-6, 8-3 ACC) are only half of a game back from Duke for the top position in the conference. With only nine conference games remaining in the season, every game is pivotal for Miami to stay in the running for an ACC regular season title and success in the conference tournament.
Virginia (13-9, 7-5 ACC) will likely prove a tough opponent as it battles to stay on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament in March. The Cavaliers have won three of their past five games but also suffered a defeat against the Fighting Irish on Jan. 29.
Virginia holds the head-to-head record against the Hurricanes by one game 13-12 and has won the last four meetings. Senior guard Jayden Gardner, an East Carolina transfer, leads the Cavaliers’ overall attack averaging 14.5 points and nearly seven rebounds per game.
In Wednesday night’s loss to Notre Dame, forward Paul Atkinson, Jr. fueled the Irish’s scoring in the paint with 23 total points. Despite a close game at the half, Notre Dame found rhythm and exploited Miami’s defensive scheme.
“We all have our ups and downs coming through the season, so this game was one of our downs,” sophomore guard Isaiah Wong said. “We have a great team right now and we’ve just got to do better”.
One bright spot for the Canes was forward Anthony Walker’s 10-point second half. The sophomore of Baltimore, Maryland, logged his fourth 20-point game of the season.
“He was rebounding, scoring inside, [and] got a steal, tied them all up. He’s very, very capable of being a difference maker for us. So, were happy with his performance,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said.
Walker’s positive performance could be the difference maker that motivates Miami back into winning form.
On Saturday, the Hurricanes will be challenged to score points against a tough Cavaliers defense which only allows an ACC-least 59.6 points per game. However, UM should have a significant advantage on the offense side as it averages 75.3 points per game compared to Virginia’s 62.9.
Tip-off is at scheduled for 5 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.