Justin Anderson started slowly but posted 11 points.
After a helter-skelter barnburner on the West Coast in last season’s meeting with Seattle, many Virginia fans worried that a score in the 70’s or higher could be bad news for the Hoos on Saturday. It wasn’t. It did prove to be very bad news for the visiting Redhawks, however, as the Cavaliers lit up the scoreboard en route to a dominant 83-43 victory. That represents the largest margin of victory in the Tony Bennett era at UVa.
“It’s nice to get a win. I think we established the right kind of basketball for us early,” Bennett said. “Everybody played solid. As fatigue and the second half wore on, it was a little more of a gamble and scramble [game].”
After a dismal first half of offense against Delaware on Tuesday night played a role in that defeat, the Hoos looked to prove themselves in this one. Despite some early turnovers and no points in the nearly three minutes to open the game, the hosts got it going against Seattle and rushed out to a 31-point lead at intermission, 44-13. The Cavaliers made 15 of 29 shots, including 4 of 10 triples, in the first half – that’s 51.7%. Interestingly, UVa took just two fewer shots in the first half against Delaware, but shot a ghastly 22.2% (6 of 27) in that 15-point half.
So what seemed to click Saturday? Virginia made a few more shots in the paint early after missing some so-called bunnies on Tuesday and good ball movement created some clean looks from 3-point range after that as well. The Cavs also grabbed 8 offensive rebounds in that opening half and produced 11 second-chance points. Most of those trends continued in the second half as the Hoos cruised to the win on the strength of 56.0% shooting.
Overall, the offense thrived on a balanced attack with players contributing inside, outside, and in transition at times against fullcourt pressure from Seattle. In the end, 7 players scored at least 7 points with 4 in double figures.
“I think everyone on this team is talented. It’s definitely not going to be one player scoring all the points,” Cav freshman Mike Tobey said. “It’s going to be a good team effort. That’s what Coach Bennett preaches and that’s what we are is a good team.”
Mike Tobey led the Hoos with 17 points.
Akil Mitchell took it to Seattle with 14 points, 16 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 assist; that’s his second double-double of the season and a career-high on the boards. Tobey, a fellow post player, hit double figures for the first time with a team-high 17 points, including some strong finishes on the end of press-breaks, and 4 rebounds. Evan Nolte knocked in 10 points with 3 assists after starting the game. Justin Anderson , who had three thunderous dunks – a pair of two-handers on no-look feeds from Nolte and Taylor Barnette as well as a driving reverse tomahawk – closed out the double figure scorers with 11; Anderson looked out of sync early initiating the offense, but after moving off the ball he finished with 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 blocks, and 1 steal.
Darion Atkins put together a solid effort for the second straight game with 8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 2 steals. Barnette added 8 points and 4 assists. Joe Harris , who had an off-night in general, rounded out the 7-plus club with 7 points.
“The coaches talked with us, and we addressed some things after the loss [Tuesday]. They talked about slow starts and having the kind of energy that we really need to bring in order to be successful,” Mitchell said. “They told us that we need to start games aggressively and that we have to come out of the gate ready. The last two games against Fairfield and Delaware, we weren’t doing that. We got lucky against Fairfield, but it showed against Delaware. But, I feel like the guys really responded with this game.”
Of course, with this being a Bennett-led team, the defense fostered much of the day’s success. The Redhawks managed just 13 points in the first half due to a combination of poor shot selection and solid Pack-Line defense, including good transition work. In the end, Seattle flirted with the lowest point total against a Bennett team at Virginia – 37 by NJIT on Dec. 21, 2009 – before finishing with its 43 total. It marked the 20th time in Bennett’s tenure that the opponent failed to crack 50 points.
The visitors shot 25.4% on the afternoon after putting up 77 in last season’s matchup, an 83-77 UVa win. No one reached double figures for the opponents as Deshaun Sunderhaus led the way with 9 points and 6 rebounds. Redhawks coach Cameron Dollar credited Virginia’s effort for slowing his team down.
“I thought that defensively they didn’t allow us to get into the paint, and then they contested the shots,” Dollar said. “We tried a bunch of different deals, and went to a couple of different people. We were slow passing it. They were quick rotating. I give them credit, for sure, for doing it. Obviously, early in the year defensively, we’d like to execute and move the ball better than we did, but we didn’t.”
With the game well out of hand by halftime, much of the day’s focus turned to the Cavalier freshmen as each of them picked up extended minutes, including a brief second-half stint with five freshmen on the floor at one time. Nolte, Barnette, Anderson, and Teven Jones all played more than 20 minutes. Naturally, the debut of Jones as a point guard drew the most attention after the Hoos struggled without a true lead guard in the line-up in their first three games of the 2012-2013 season.
Jones impacted the game from the moment he checked in as he appeared to provide a settling presence to the offense as the other players were able to slide into more natural roles. Jones logged 25 minutes and finished with 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist. The Cavaliers said afterward though that Jones’ effect on the game was far greater than his individual box score suggests. Digging deeper into the stats, however, shows how much of a boost he provided – in the first half, UVa outscored Seattle 35-6 with Jones at the point guard slot, while the score was just 14-7 in Virginia’s favor when he was out of the game.
“He’s quick and he’s more of a point guard. He can handle the ball and as I said he lets us set our defense at halfcourt or down the floor, which is big for us. If our pick-up point can be out there, it helps us establish a better start to our defensive possession,” Bennett said. “Again just taking guys like Joe, Paul [Jesperson], Evan, Justin, those guys off [the ball helps]. You could see early in the game we struggled. Justin had a few early turnovers. We looked not fluid, almost mechanical, with it, which we’ve been all year, because we’re playing forwards as our point guards because of the situation. So to have that, I thought breathed life into us.”
Teven Jones played his first career game at UVa.
“It definitely helps just having him healthy. Even though he wouldn’t necessarily be our starter when Jontel gets back, just having a guy back there evens the floor out, gets more balance, and you start to see what guys can do in their natural positions,” Mitchell said. “Just the rhythm. You get more fastbreak opportunities with him being able to bring the ball up, you get more possessions, and just all kinds of the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”
Jones, who said he was excited to finally make his debut in the orange and blue, sensed that the team relaxed a little with a point guard finally in the game for regular minutes for the first time this season.
“Yeah,” Jones said with a smile. “The energy was a lot better. Because when we didn’t have a point guard in there, the game was slowed down and it didn’t look as organized. When I got out there, even during the timeouts everybody was like great job, great job, keep it up. That felt good.”
Beyond that, the youngster just tried to focus on some advice from Coach Bennett when he checked into the game.
“He came in the training room [Friday] and he was like it was great to have me back and he was talking to me. He just told me don’t force anything and don’t go for home runs,” Jones said. “He was like just run the team and put pressure on the ball, that’s what we need you for right now. I did that and we got a 40-point win.”