|No. 7 Virginia draws Vermont, battle-tested Lamb|
No. 7 Virginia's first three opponents couldn't find any cracks in the Cavaliers' impenetrable defense.
Unbeaten Vermont will be the next team to try to solve the pack-line puzzle when the Catamounts (4-0) take on the Cavaliers (3-0) on Tuesday night in Charlottesville, Va.
Syracuse, James Madison and Columbia combined for more turnovers (42) than made field goals (41) and averaged 36.7 points on a collective 25.0 percent shooting against Virginia. The Cavaliers also have blocked 19 shots and compiled a plus-39 rebounding margin.
"We just want to keep making it hard for opponents to score against us," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said after Saturday's 60-42 victory against Columbia.
"I think you see at times, when we've gotten in trouble, we've been able to block some shots at the rim and we've been solid for sure, and that'll have to continue to improve little by little. (Defense will) always be the staple for this team."
The dominant defensive effort has enabled the defending national champions to survive a sluggish start shooting the basketball, as Virginia has held the lead for nearly 112 of its 120 minutes played.
The Cavs are shooting 39.8 percent from the field, 20.0 percent (13 of 65) from 3-point distance and 58.8 percent (20 of 34) from the free-throw line.
Improving those numbers won't come easy against Vermont, which is off to its best start since 1977-78. The defending America East Conference champs have been to two of the last three NCAA tournaments and have won at least 20 games in 11 straight seasons.
The Catamounts already are battle-tested, winning three games by three or fewer points on the road at St. Bonaventure (61-59), at Bucknell (66-63) and most recently at St. John's (70-68) on Saturday.
Vermont has held opponents to 59.3 points per contest on 34.3 percent shooting, including 19.0 percent (16 of 84) from beyond the arc.
The Catamounts will have to contend with the Cavaliers' superior size, particularly 6-foot-9 senior forward Mamadi Diakite (14.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks per game), 7-foot-1 junior forward Jay Huff (11.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks) and 6-foot-8 senior wing Braxton Key (10.0 points, 9.7 boards).
Senior forward Anthony Lamb, the 2018-19 America East Player of the Year, leads Vermont at both ends of the floor with 18.3 points and 10.5 boards. Senior guard Everett Duncan (11.3) and sophomore forward Ryan Davis (10.3) also are scoring in double figures.
Lamb logged 23 points and 13 rebounds at St. John's, including the game-winning jump shot between two defenders with two seconds left.
"(That) was a big win for our program in a great college basketball atmosphere," Vermont coach John Becker said. "For people who haven't seen Anthony play before, that's who he is and he's an incredible player. He made a huge shot to win the game and I'm really proud of him."
This is the second campus-round game for both teams in the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament, which continues Saturday and Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
--Field Level Media