CHARLOTTESVILLE, JAN. 23 -- Their level of talent and lack of experience probably will prevent them from being a great basketball team, but the Virginia Cavaliers are slowly, if unsurely, becoming a potent one.

They earned their second consecutive upset today, beating Georgia Tech, 58-55, at University Hall.

"We are searching for a consistent identity," Virginia assistant coach Dave Odom said. "We are closer today to finding out who we might be than we were last Saturday."

Since then, the Cavaliers have beaten Maryland and now the Yellow Jackets to raise their Atlantic Coast Conference record to 3-2, while nudging their overall record to 10-8.

They have won four in a row from Georgia Tech, and like the three games last year (decided by a total of six points) this one was very close. The biggest lead for either team was eight points and that was in the first half.

Georgia Tech's Tommy Hammonds made a 12-foot jumper with 1:27 left in the game to tie the score at 52. And the Yellow Jackets lost because they didn't score again until two seconds remained.

Bill Batts totaled four points, but got two with 1:05 left by tapping in John Johnson's missed shot for a 54-52 Virginia lead.

Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins called time with 38 seconds left.

"We had a set play we were going to use if Virginia played man-to-man," he said, "and we were going to try to go inside if they were in a zone."

The Virginia coaches, who had used a zone much of the game, told their team to match up man-to-man. The problem was that Darrick Simms, who went into the game after the timeout, didn't hear the switch and thought the Cavaliers would be in a zone.

The result was that Georgia Tech guard Brian Oliver found himself wide open on the right wing. Then he found himself with the ball. Then he found himself shooting from 18 feet with 28 seconds left.

"Brian's a gutsy kid, and he decided to take matters into his own hands," Cremins said of Oliver, who was two of seven from the field to that point. "It was not a bad shot."

Except that it barely hit the backboard after passing the rim.

"The end result was bad," Cremins said, "but, if it goes in, we'd all be here smiling."

Georgia Tech was forced to foul, and Craig Neal hacked Johnson with 17 seconds left. Johnson made both free throws for a 56-52 lead. At the other end, 5-11 Johnson harassed 6-9 Hammonds enough that Hammonds' jumper from the corner with 10 seconds left bounded away. The rebound went to freshman Kenny Turner, who made both ends of the one-and-one to seal the victory. Oliver threw in a three-point shot from about 22 feet with two seconds left. It decreased the final margin, but didn't alter the outcome.

"We were very fortunate to win those three {previous games}," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland, "and we were very fortunate to win today."

He got 18 points from Mel Kennedy, 11 from Richard Morgan and 10 from Turner. After a quick start, Johnson struggled with his shot (three of 13) and finished with nine points, but had eight assists and just one turnover.

"Kennedy and Johnson are a nightmare," Cremins said.

Each had three points in a 12-0 run that provided a 25-17 lead. The Yellow Jackets fought back, though, and Hammonds scored twice in a row for a 33-31 lead. But Batts got his first two points on a leaning, 17-foot jumper at the buzzer for a 33-33 halftime score.

Georgia Tech jumped out to a six-point lead at the start of the second half, but the Cavaliers responded and the biggest lead for either team was five until Turner's free throws with seven seconds left.

"At the beginning of the second half, we weren't concentrating," said Kennedy, "but we got our heads together."

They will need to stay together because the Cavaliers have a very rough schedule the rest of the season. They will play only four of 12 games at home.

"We're just taking it game by game," said Kennedy.

Georgia Tech (13-4, 1-2) has lost two in a row in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It got 17 points from Dennis Scott, 15 from Hammonds and 14 from Duane Ferrell, but all three were below 50 percent from the floor and the team shot 37.9 percent.

"We're struggling now with our confidence level," Cremins said. "I liked how we got off to a strong start in the second half, but then we couldn't score at crucial times. We're struggling and we have to find ourselves."

Sounds familiar.