North Texas (3-2) at Virginia (3-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, November 20, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: John Paul Jones Arena (14,593) -- Charlottesville, Virginia. Television: None. Home Record: North Texas 1-0, Virginia 3-1. Away Record: North Texas 0-1, Virginia 0-1. Neutral Record: North Texas 2-1, Virginia 0-0. Conference Record: North Texas 0-0, Virginia 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Virginia Cavaliers and North Texas Mean Green will close out play in the NIT Season Tip-Off consolation bracket when the two teams square off on Tuesday night at the John Paul Jones Arena.
Tony Bennett's Cavaliers will be playing their sixth game in the span of 12 days with Tuesday's affair and have gone 3-2 thus far, including Monday's 63-44 rout of Lamar. That marks two straight wins for the Cavs, who blew out Seattle University on Saturday, 83-43 and moved to 3-1 in Charlottesville on the young campaign. Virginia will take an extended break following this game, as the team is not back in action until Nov. 28 at Wisconsin as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Despite the loss of senior guard Brandon Walton for the season in the opener against Creighton, Tony Benford's squad has stayed afloat in the early going, moving to 3-2 on the year with Monday's 80-66 win over IUPUI in Charlottesville. North Texas has also made its rounds, with this being its sixth game in a short time period. Like Virginia, the Mean Green will be idle following this game until a home date with UT Arlington on Nov. 28
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood.
North Texas employed an up-tempo style and scored 20 fast-break points to overwhelm the jaguars on Monday en route to the 14-point decision. Tony Mitchell was outstanding in the win, posting a near double-double with 21 points and nine rebounds. Roger Franklin was able to complete the feat with 13 points and 10 boards, while Jordan Williams and Jacob Holmen added perimeter support with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Mitchell has been the go-to-guy in the early season, posting team-high averages of 15.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He has dominated both inside and out, converting 50 percent from the floor overall, including 43.8 percent from behind the arc (7-of-16). Williams is next in the scoring column at 13.0 ppg, while Chris Jones (10.6 ppg, 6.4 apg) has shown the ability to both shoot and distribute the ball effectively.
Virginia employs a much more methodical approach to the game under Bennett, as strong defense is a staple in Charlottesville. On the season, teams are averaging a mere 50.8 ppg against the Cavaliers and doing so on well under 40 percent shooting (.374). In addition, Virginia has enjoyed a +4.6 rebounding margin and is forcing 14 turnovers per game. Offensively, the team looks to the inside/out games of Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. Harris, a junior guard has great size (6-6) and has been lights out from 3-point range (11-of-23) en route to a team-high 15.6 ppg. Mitchell has provided a powerful low post presence, averaging a double-double with 12.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
It was once again a strong defensive effort that fueled the win over Lamar on Monday, as Virginia held the Cardinals to a mere 44 points, on .326 shooting. Harris knocked down three 3-pointers, finishing with a game-high 17 points. Mitchell added 10 points to the cause, while grabbing a team-high eight rebounds.
Both these teams have to be weary due to hectic early-season schedules, but Virginia's play on defense and its homecourt advantage certainly tip the scales in its favor here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia 64, North Texas 53
11/20 10:43:05 ET