The final offensive numbers weren’t pretty: 36-percent shooting, just one made 3-pointer and only 46 total points.
Yes, a lot of basketball fans were shaking their heads after Virginia’s 46-38 win over Tennessee at John Paul Jones Arena last December.
UVa coach Tony Bennett, though, wasn’t one of them.
When asked about the aesthetics of his team’s performance in the post-game press conference, Bennett bluntly stated: “It looked good to me.”
Bennett was choosing to look at the flip side: his team held Tennessee to 29-percent shooting, just 16 percent (3 of 19) from 3-point range, and limited the Vols’ best player, center Jarnell Stokes, to five points.
Tonight, Bennett will gladly take that kind of effort when Virginia and Tennessee square off again, this time in Knoxville.
The game is an important one for UVa, which is looking for its first true road win and to bolster its non-conference resume before the start of ACC play at Florida State on Saturday.
The Cavaliers have already lost marquee games to VCU and Wisconsin and were beaten by Green Bay – an opponent they were expected to defeat. A loss tonight would mean that Virginia (9-3) would have to go 11-7 in the ACC just to get to 20 wins.
Tennessee (7-4) has three seniors and two juniors in its starting lineup but has underachieved so far.
Trae Golden, who averaged 12.1 points and a team-leading 3.6 assists, transferred to Georgia Tech in the offseason.
The Vols lost at Wichita State and at home to NC State before bouncing back with a win over Morehead State last Monday.
Jordan McRae, a 6-foot-6 senior guard, leads Tennessee in scoring, averaging 18.7 points.
An interesting matchup will be down low between Stokes and Virginia big man Mike Tobey. Stokes and Tobey were roommates this past summer on the USA Basketball Men's U19 National Team, which won gold at the World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic.
“(Tobey) is very skilled for his height,” Stokes told utsports.com. “We've talked a lot of trash about this upcoming game. I don't think (Tobey) is starting, but I know they have depth on their team. They have about three or four bigs who could come in and start.”
Bennett and Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin also know each other fairly well, having worked together for the 2011 USA Basketball Men's World University Games National Team.
“If you come down on the offensive side of the ball and shoot it quick, they'll grind you out on the offensive end when they get the ball back,” Martin said. “So you have to be mentally locked in from start to finish.”
Virginia is ranked second in the nation in scoring defense at 54.2 points per game. ... The Cavaliers are averaging 65.8 points, their highest total under Bennett. ... Virginia senior Akil Mitchell and Tennessee's Jordan McRae both attended the LeBron James Skills Academy this past summer.