Monday marked five weeks since the Virginia basketball team's last loss, at Duke on January 13. The Cavaliers can extend their current winning streak to 10 straight with a win at Virginia Tech on Tuesday.
And coach Tony Bennett says balance and quality have been the keys for his team throughout the run.
"We don't get too hung up in, "Well you've got to win this one, that one,"" Bennett said Monday. "It's just, can we play the right way? It's a simple formula for us, we adhere to it. Our guys are trying to practice hard, knowing that it's not always going to be smooth sailing. But that mindset, I think, has made a difference."
With the exception of that 69-65 loss at Duke, the first month of ACC play proved to be a lot of smooth sailing for Bennett's Cavaliers. UVa's first ACC wins were all by at least 10 points -- the first time in program history that has happened -- and the Cavaliers led by at least 20 points in each of those victories. That streak also includes a 65-45 win at home against the Hokies on January 25.
That string of double-digit victories ended with the Cavaliers' last-second 48-45 win at Pittsburgh on February 2. UVa's margin of victory has dropped from 18.3 points-per-game through those first seven wins, to 9.0 ppg over the past five.
But the Cavaliers have shown a "closer mentality" in those close games, including most recently last Saturday at Clemson. Malcolm Brogdon hit a pair of big foul shots in a one-point game with 20.7 seconds left, giving UVa the cushion it needed to hang on with a 63-58 win.
And Bennett says the ability to close out tough wins bodes well down the road.
"You never take it for granted," Bennett said. "But when you get in those spots, if you have done it before, you hope that you have some confidence from it, and some momentum. And so I think, the last couple games, different guys have stepped up in those situations."
The Cavaliers can extend a four-game winning streak against the Hokies Tuesday night in Blacksburg. UVa climbed to No. 14 in this week's Associated Press poll, the program's highest ranking in a dozen years. And at 12-1, UVa is off to its best start in the ACC since 1982.
"It's a process and you know you just, I think they have the right mindset," Bennett said of this year's team. "They really do and I think it's a... selfless group that is about the right things. And when there were some adversity or bumps in the road, they came back and responded the right way."
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