No. 2 Virginia hosts No. 5 Houston in Saturday showdown

Published: Dec. 16, 2022 at 5:05 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - 5th ranked Houston will be the highest ranked team outside of the ACC to ever play in Charlottesville, setting up a marquee showdown against UVA on Saturday.

Last year, Virginia lost at Houston, and Tony Bennett’s guys are getting ready for a rematch. The Cougars jumped out to a 14-2 lead and won by 20. Coach Bennett said that after that game, his team got rattled.

“I like to say we got punked. They were more physical, they played harder, they turned us over, they sped us up,” Bennett said.

This year’s Virginia team is more talented, more experienced, and now battle tested having already beaten two ranked teams this season.

“We’ve added some shooters so that’s always good. We still have the inside presence and I think all around we’re just better prepared than we were last year,” Bennett said. “We’re ready for whatever is thrown our way, but it’s hard to simulate the physicality of how hard they play and how hard they go to the offensive glass.”

Houston’s #1 ranking earlier this month was the first time the Cougars had been ranked #1 in almost four decades, back when Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler played there.

This group that they have now is not quite like that, but they are athletic, and they are ferocious offensive rebounders,” Coach Jason Williford said.

Williford says Reece Beekman is day to day recovering from a hamstring injury suffered early in the game against JMU. Williford didn’t say if the All-ACC defender has practiced this week, or if Beekman will play Saturday.

“I think even without him, it’s good for us to find ways to win. We knew JMU was a good team, and we were able to find different lineups and get it to work out and win the game,” Williford said.

But Beekman is one of UVA’s top defenders in what surely will be a tight, defensive contest.

“It’s going to be a beautiful game, we’re going to love it. First to fifty, it’ll be beautiful basketball,” Williford said.

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