No. 16 UVA looks ahead to highly anticipated No. 1 Gonzaga matchup Dec. 26

No. 16 UVA looks ahead to highly anticipated No. 1 Gonzaga matchup Dec. 26
Reece Beekman, in front of cardboard cutouts of fans at JPJ. (Source: UVA Athletics)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A lot is on the line for the University of Virginia Men’s Basketball team this weekend as the No. 16 ‘Hoos take on top-ranked Gonzaga in Fort Worth Saturday, December 26.

The Cavaliers are just now getting back into the groove after major games against Michigan State, Florida, and Villanova were canceled due to COVID-19 issues in UVA’s program.

“When you play a team as talented and as explosive as Gonzaga, I don’t know what prepares you for that,” UVA Head Coach Tony Bennett said. “I know how good they are,”

Bennett says his team will have to leave it all on the court to pull off a win.

“I know what we’ll have to do at a very high level to be engaged in a game like that and make it competitive and hopefully be successful,” he said.

While some could argue that the ‘Hoos could still be rusty after being in quarantine for more than a week, the team says otherwise.

“I feel like we were looking a lot fresher than most teams coming out of a quarantine,” junior guard Trey Murphy III said. “It was crazy that we were out for 10 days and in that first practice back it was one of our better practices.”

UVA quickly got back on track with a strong win over William and Mary on Tuesday, outscoring the Tribe by 36 points.

Forward Kadin Shedrick says that success can be attributed to the coaches, who allowed them to practice one by one during the quarantine period.

“They even allowed us to come in one at a time and we would have our own half-court to just be isolated,” Shedrick said. “Nobody else was around us and get some shots up so we wouldn’t be terribly rusty.”

“I think that quarantine really put a little bit of hunger in us, and we were also just so eager to play,” Murphy said. “We came back on Saturday and it was really clicking.”

It has been more than a decade since the two have faced off on the hardwood - back then the Cavaliers beat the Zags 108-87 in 2007. Now, the contest is could be a challenge for UVA.

“It’ll be a different kind of game with the way they’ll get down the floor,” Bennett said. “Again, we gave up 14 offensive rebounds, that won’t fly.”

“We’re all really looking forward to it,” Shedrick said. “We’re excited for the challenge.”

Tip-off is at 4 p.m. Saturday at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas

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