Cavs' Full Attention Now on Syracuse


John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville has never seen a basketball game of this magnitude. Virginia's game at home against Syracuse has been sold out for weeks, and the two teams have seemingly been on a collision course for the ACC regular season title for weeks.

And now -- after extending their winning streak to 12 in a row by taking care of Miami Wednesday night -- the Cavaliers themselves can turn their attention to Saturday's match-up of the top two teams in the conference standings.

"The time is here now. The time is here to focus on them," UVa forward Akil Mitchell said after Wednesday's game. "All this week, everybody's been tweeting. And media is everywhere, everybody's been talking about it."

"It's definitely cool to now actually be able to talk about it. There's nobody in our way," said freshman guard London Perrantes. "It's going to be a great game. We're just going to do what we do, and hopefully it happens for the best."

With one exception -- a 69-65 loss at Duke on January 13 that was decided in the game's closing seconds -- all the Cavaliers have done since entering ACC play is win. Their 15 conference wins are a school record, and their 12-game winning streak is the program's longest in ACC play since 1982.

Syracuse is the only team in the league that can still catch the Cavaliers in the ACC standings. The Orange began the year with program-best 25 straight wins, before back-to-back losses to Boston College and at Duke last week.

Syracuse bounced back by escaping Maryland with a 57-55 win on Monday. The Orange will come to Charlottesville ranked No. 4 in this week's Associated Press poll.

"They have a lot of weapons; well-coached. They have a lot," said UVa coach Tony Bennett, whose team is No. 12 in this week's AP poll. "I mean, there's a reason why they have the record they have. And how successful coach Boeheim has been. And you have to play at a very high level."

"Of course as a player, you try to block out the distractions. Block out, honestly, the publicity the game is getting. Because I really feel like it's not about that," said UVa sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon.

"It's just another basketball game," said Brogdon. "We've got to go in and play our game, and like I said, impose our will from the beginning."

"It's really just a matter of figuring out what we're going to do against that zone," said Mitchell. "How we're going to defend them, defend their actions. And just like any other game, it's just a matter of executing at this point."

Wednesday's win against Miami also extended UVa's ACC home winning streak to 17 straight, a new school record. The Cavaliers are 0-2 at home against ranked opponents this season (non-conference losses to VCU and Wisconsin), but Duke was ranked third in the country when they lost at John Paul Jones Arena last season.

"To be in this spot is terrific," said Bennett. "We're at our place, and we know we'll have to do certain things well. But the formula doesn't change for us. And just because there's so much excitement around it, we're not going to be different. We're just going to have to be as good as we can."

And one more plot line for Saturday -- it will be Senior Day for the UVa program. Mitchell, Joe Harris, and Thomas Rogers will make their final appearances at John Paul Jones in UVa uniforms.

"The last home game for Akil and I, and Thomas," Harris said Wednesday. "Just overall I think it's going to be a great atmosphere. Something definitely to be excited for. We're playing for an ACC championship. You can't really script it any better than that."


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