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Strong defense propels Virginia past Lamar

The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Virginia held Lamar to 18 first-half points and cruised to a 63-44 win in an NIT Tip-off consolation game.

The Cavaliers overwhelmed the Cardinals while racing out to a 24-8 lead with eight minutes to play in the first half. Virginia led by as many as 24 points before settling for the final margin.

"On the sidelines or the stands, maybe it doesn't feel like it's close, but we're trying to keep building and play a certain way that gives us a chance," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "I thought there was a stretch in the second half where we were up 24 or so, and there were three or four moving screens and three or four turnovers that brought them back into the game. And those are things we talk about with our players, to play through those."

The Cavaliers (3-2) held Lamar (0-4) to just 32.6 percent shooting from the floor. Virginia has held each of its first five opponents to fewer than 60 points.

For the fourth time this season, Joe Harris led the Cavaliers in scoring. He had 17 points Monday. Akil Mitchell added 10 points and eight rebounds. The junior has scored in double figures all five games this season.

Freshman Teven Jones earned the first start of his Virginia career, and he finished with six points, two assists, a steal and one turnover. The freshman made his debut in Virginia's win over Seattle on Saturday after being sidelined with a back injury.

He became the fifth freshman to start at least one game for the Cavaliers this season.

Jones started in place of injured senior captain Jontel Evans, who did not dress for the second straight game.

"I thought Teven gave us a nice lift," Bennett said. "We've been playing more with forwards at the point guard spot. I think from a defensive standpoint, he sets our defense. I liked what he's brought, and I think it's made us a better team in the last two games with him on the floor."

The Cardinals committed 14 turnovers on the night. Turnovers have plagued Lamar all season, as the Cardinals are giving the ball away twice as frequently as their opponents are.

"We turn it over too much," Lamar coach Patrick Knight said. "We only turned it over 14 times, but I think Virginia scored off every one of them. When your offense is the other team's best offense, it kills you."

Stan Brown led the Cardinals with 11 points, and he tied for the team lead with six rebounds. Brown is the only returning starter from the 2011-12 Lamar team that won the Southland Conference tournament. The Cardinals' roster is comprised of a plethora of young players, including six freshmen.

Lamar will play IUPUI at 4:30 p.m. EST Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers will face North Texas in the nightcap, scheduled for 7 p.m..

"I'm a little exhausted," Mitchell said, referring to the Cavaliers' busy early-season schedule. "Six games in 12 days is a lot for an NBA team. Coach Bennett talked to us about that today and how important it is to take care of our bodies. We'll be fine though."

Lamar is in the midst of an 11-game road trip to start the 2012-13 season. The Cardinals will not play at home until they host LIU Brooklyn on Dec. 29.

NOTES: Virginia and Lamar met for the first time. ... The Cavaliers shot 100 percent (11-for-11) from the free-throw line for the first time this season. ... Virginia held an opponent to fewer than 50 points for the 21st time in the Bennett era. ... The Cavaliers recorded eight blocks, which is the most by a Virginia team since a 10-block contest against Virginia Tech on Jan. 10, 2009.

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