Virginia’s Joe Harris made 7 of 8 shots to tally 22 points.
Virginia may have discovered at least a temporary antidote to its ACC road woes. The cure? Shoot the lights out from 3-point range. The Cavaliers made 11 triples in both of its league road wins against Virginia Tech and Maryland. UVa won just its second conference road game in five tries Sunday afternoon with an 80-69 victory against the Terrapins in College Park.
The Hoos (17-6, 7-3 ACC) made 11 of 19 3-pointers Sunday, which is the season’s second best performance in long-range shooting percentage for the team. The 57.9% 3-point shooting clip fell behind just the victory against North Texas when the Cavs made 72.7% (8 of 11).
“It was target practice out there today. Nobody could miss,” Virginia senior guard Jontel Evans said. “The guys get a lot of reps in practice and it showed today. I’m always telling them to be ready when I’m in the game. When I drive into the lane I’m always looking for them to be open.”
“Well obviously we moved the ball well; we had different guys shooting well, and we were very efficient,” said Cavalier coach Tony Bennett, who has guided his team to three straight wins at Maryland. “It probably helped us out when we were turning the ball over down the stretch. I thought we had a hard time containing them off the dribble. Thankfully, we were able to overcome that with some good shooting and some good offense.”
Indeed, the 3-point shooting exhibition was much more than a lone gunman. UVa had five different players hit a triple, led by a perfect outing from Paul Jesperson as he made all four of his long-range attempts to finish with a career-high 12 points. Joe Harris added a trio of 3-pointers, the 13th straight game he has produced at least one trey, while Evan Nolte hit two of his own. Justin Anderson and Taylor Barnette chipped in one each.
That sharp-shooting keyed a balanced and efficient effort on the offensive end for the Hoos. They shot 54.2% (26 of 48) for the game, joining Duke (52.4%) as only the second team to surpass the 50% barrier against the Terrapins. Four of the starters – Jesperson, Harris, Evans, and Akil Mitchell – combined to make 17 of 23 shot attempts.
Justin Anderson knocked down a career-high 17 points.
Harris had a sensational day with 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting, the third time in four games that the junior forward has reached the 20-point plateau. Mitchell joined Harris and Jesperson in double figures with 13 points and 4 rebounds despite first-half foul trouble. Mitchell has posted double-digit points in 18 games this season.
Anderson, UVa’s fifth starter, gave Maryland (17-7, 5-6 ACC) all kinds of trouble too. While he made just 5 of 14 shots, the freshman created match-up issues as the team’s power forward for long stretches. That led to a career-high 17 points and a 6-of-6 outing at the free throw line. He threw in 9 rebounds, 3 assists (2 turnovers), and 1 blocked shot for good measure in his 35 minutes.
“He got us off to a good start … I think one of the reasons we rebounded well was that they didn’t always play their two bigs at times, they tried to match up with us offensively. Early when Justin had one of the fours or fives on him, he really got free,” Bennett said. “I thought he did some good things – he got a little shaky there at the end with some of those turnovers – but he was the first to say ‘my bad.’ He made some terrific plays, and really played well for us. … I look at his rebounding line, those nine rebounds we needed that. He had some big physical rebounds.”
Rebounding had been a major concern for the Hoos coming into the game because the Terps had not lost the board battle in a single game this season. A small sampling of their rebounding advantage include 54-38 over Kentucky, 42-39 over FSU, 48-44 over Miami, 45-41 over NC State, and 41-39 over UNC.
Thanks in part to Virginia’s hot shooting night that limited Maryland’s defensive glass opportunities and the Terps’ 9 steals that tied their season-high total, UVa took the rebounding category 34-29.
“We knew coming in that Maryland was a really good rebounding team,” Harris said. “We practiced a lot on getting our guards back to get the long rebounds. We made an effort to have everyone come back to the ball defensively.”
The Cavaliers face a short turn-around for the second time in this recent three-week stretch with just one off day between games. The Hoos host in-state rival Virginia Tech on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. (Note: Virginia currently leads the 9th Annual Hokies vs. Hoos Food Fight to benefit the Central Virginia Food Bank; if interested, you can donate here.)