Virginia vs. Miami: Who Needs to Step Up for the Cavaliers?

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Virginia vs. Miami: Who Needs to Step Up for the Cavaliers?
Starting Virginia guard Joe Harris. AP

The Virginia Cavaliers are coming off one of their worst losses of the season, as they gave up 93 points at North Carolina on Saturday in a 93-81 loss.

The most points Virginia had given up this season, prior to playing at North Carolina, was 69 in a 80-69 win over Maryland on February 10. 

After a loss of that magnitude, will Virginia bounce back at No. 2 Miami on Tuesday night and pull off the huge upset? 

It’s not impossible, but defeating the Hurricanes on the road will be no easy task. 

Even though Miami had an ugly, yet emotional, 45-43 victory over Clemson on Sunday, the Hurricanes are tough at home. They are 11-0 and have not lost a single game at the BankUnited Center this season. 

The Cavaliers need to hope that Miami comes out flat Tuesday night after a tough road win on Sunday.

Not only will it be a factor that Miami starts off slow, but Virginia needs their leaders to step up Tuesday night. 

Junior guard Joe Harris has to continue to keep his scoring spree going. He has averaged 16.7 points per game this season, but has taken his game to a new level in Virginia’s past four games. 

Harris has averaged 24.0 points in the Cavaliers past four games. In a loss at North Carolina on Saturday, he had a career-high of 27 points. 

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It is important that Harris steps up tonight. If he suddenly goes cold and can’t get the ball through the cylinder, it is going to be hard to keep up on the scoreboard because of Miami's explosive offense. 

Second in command this season has been junior forward Akil Mitchell. Mitchell can score, rebound and steal the ball away from opponents. 

Mitchell has averaged 12.6 points per game, 8.8 rebounds per game and leads his team in steals with 33. 

Mitchell has to put up points, but more importantly be strong on the defensive end. It is critical that he be physical on the glass and not let the talented Miami big men Kenny Kadji, Julian Gamble and sixth man Reggie Johnson get second chance scoring opportunities. 

If Mitchell can cause turnovers on the defensive end as well, that could be a key in Virginia pulling off the upset as well. 

One more player that could help the Cavaliers pull of the upset is senior point guard Jontel Evans. His scoring has gradually become better over the past three games, as he scored 12 points on North Carolina on Saturday. 

Evans has been good this season at distributing the ball to his teammates and has averaged 6.8 assists in the Cavaliers past four games.

It is going to be an uphill battle for this Virginia squad Tuesday night. If they can do the little things, though, like having Harris score points, Mitchell being stingy on the defensive end and Evans making smart plays with the ball, the upset of No. 2 Miami could be possible. 

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