Looking to recapture their early season momentum, the Virginia Cavaliers handled in-state foe Norfolk State 66-56 on Monday night in Charlottesville Va.
The Cavaliers, who got off to a 7-1 start and shot to No. 24 in the AP Top 25 poll before losing two of their last three, struggled to distance themselves from the Spartans in the first half and took just a six-point lead into halftime, 32-26, behind nine points from guard Justin Anderson.
Anderson finished with a team-high 14 points and just missed a double-double with eight rebounds. Virginia also got 12 points from guard Joe Harris.
Norfolk, which trailed by as many as 10 in the first half and 13 in the second, was held to its lowest point total of the season in the loss. The Spartans came out after halftime on a 6-0 run to tie the game at 32-32, but they weren't able to grab the lead as Virginia answered with a 7-0 spurt to regain control and never look back.
The Cavaliers (9-3) also benefited from drawing an early fourth foul on Norfolk State leading scorer Malcolm Hawkins (18.3-point average) with just over 15 minutes left in the game. Hawkins, who had scored in double figures in every game this season coming into the game, left with just four points but managed to keep his scoring streak alive with two late 3-pointers to finish with 10.
Norfolk (8-5) was led by reigning MEAC Player of the Year Pendarvis Williams, who finished with 12 points and four rebounds. Guard Marese Phelps added 10 points off the bench.
Virginia, which came into the game holding opponents to an average of 54 points a game, continued its trend of a stifling defense and limited the Spartans to 4-of-15 from 3-point range. Virginia also forced nine turnovers and blocked six Spartans shots.
It was the second straight tough loss for Norfolk, which blew a seven-point lead with three minutes to play against Seattle in a 70-67 defeat last Thursday.
Monday's game marked just the third meeting in school history between the in-state foes, which are separated by roughly 160 miles. Virginia has won all three, including a 67-56 win last season in the first round of the NIT.
Virginia is off for a week and won't play again until Dec. 30, while Norfolk has the same break and returns to action Dec. 30 at Hawaii.