When Boston College beat Virginia 60-53 on Jan. 7, Tomas Woldetensae played eight minutes for Virginia and took two shots.
Jay Huff fouled out and played 18 minutes. Mamadi Diakite picked up two fouls in the first 52 seconds, and played an ACC-low 24 minutes.
Jim Christian and Boston College took the floor without Derryck Thornton and Nik Popovic, their first and third leading scorers, respectively. Thornton adds playmaking ability at the guard spot, while Popovic uses an array of low-post moves to score effectively.
Only about five weeks have passed since the Eagles upset the Cavaliers, but Wednesday’s meeting in Charlottesville features two teams that look tremendously different than when they first played.
“They played well against us there,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said. “Obviously they beat us, and they were very good. I thought they played very hard, and they did a lot of good things. Now they add their two of their three top scorers.”
Boston College head coach Jim Christian liked his team’s effort in the first game, but he knows a few breaks going the other way could have turned a win into a defeat just as easily.
Jay Heath, who was forced to play just about the entire game at point guard for the Eagles with Thornton out, made a handful of contested and challenging shots to help propel the Eagles to a win.
“We made timely shots,” Christian said. “A couple of those shots were not the best of shots, but they went in. We were fortunate. We made timely shots, and we competed every possession.”
Christian wants his team to compete similarly to the way it did back in January, when the Eagles finished the game strong and gave Virginia fits on both ends of the floor.
Adding in two of his best scorers, who combined for 36 points in a win over N.C. State on Sunday night, helps the cause.
Virginia features a different lineup than it did in early January, too. Woldetensae has come on strong at shooting guard, earning at least 18 minutes in every game since the eight-minute performance against Boston College. In his last six games, Woldetensae has three performances with at least six made 3-pointers.
“He’s one of the guys in this league that if they see their first couple go in, they get in such a great rhythm it’s hard to stop them,” Christian said. “He’s got great length, and he uses screens very well.”
Two of the guys who screen well and also score efficiently are Diakite and Huff.
The duo combined for just 42 minutes on the court in the first meeting because of foul trouble. Diakite picked up a pair of quick fouls and saw just a few minutes of play in the first half.
Huff missed the final 4:21 of the first half, and UVa trailed 30-26 at halftime.
In the final 20 minutes, Huff struggled even more with foul trouble before fouling out for the first time all season with 2:03 remaining.
Bennett credits Boston College’s offensive system and philosophy as the reason the Cavaliers struggled a bit with foul trouble. With two of its best offensive players in the lineup this time around, avoiding fouls will be a key for Virginia.
“They’re very good offensively,” Bennett said. “They really move hard, cut hard and just have a lot of very good actions. I think Jimmy does a heck of a job and has them so well coached and well prepared … now they’re healthy.”
Boston College sits at just 13-13 on the season, but the Eagles pose challenges, especially with Popovic and Thornton in the mix.
If history says anything, the Cavaliers have a good shot of beating the Eagles despite the challenges the Eagles present.
Going back to the start of the 2012-13 season, the only ACC team to beat the Cavaliers twice in the same season was Duke last year.
Boston College also is 0-5 in its last five trips to Charlottesville, with its last win coming in February of 2011 with Steve Donahue as the head coach.
As Virginia continues to battle for an NCAA Tournament spot, Wednesday night offers it a chance to avenge its worst loss — at least on paper — of the season.
It’s also an opportunity to avoid a bad loss in the eyes of the NCAA Selection Committee.
Virginia wants to make the NCAA Tournament. If it takes care of business against middle-of-the-pack ACC squads, that goal is realistic.
“You know nothing but solid basketball is going to help you accomplish that goal,” Bennett said.