CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Virginia hadn't played in the friendly confines of John Paul Jones Arena since Dec. 4, a night the Cavaliers would like to forget. That last home game resulted in an ugly 48-38 loss to Wisconsin.
Following their two-week hiatus, the Cavaliers bounced back from two straight loses to pick up a 57-43 win over Northern Iowa on Saturday.
Guard Justin Anderson scored a game-high 16 points while guard Joe Harris complemented Anderson with 12 points and seven rebounds.
"I thought he (Anderson) was solid," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of his sophomore's play. "This was a game that required us to play four guards and we were able to use him at different positions."
The Cavaliers got the victory despite shooting 37.7 percent from the field, including 7-of-26 from beyond the 3-point arc. Virginia also made only 10-of-18 free throws.
"We were rusty," Bennett said. "In stretches we defended well and got decent looks, and I kept saying, 'If you work to get a quality look, you have to keep taking them and eventually they will start falling.'"
Virginia (8-3) started the second half strong and opened up its biggest lead of the game, 13 points, at the 14:14 mark. Northern Iowa (5-6) hung around but was never able to close the gap to less than seven as the Cavaliers' defense stifled the Panthers.
Northern Iowa shot just 31.7 percent from the field, including 2-of-19 from beyond the arc.
Forward Seth Tuttle led the way for the Panthers with 14 points and 11 rebounds but made just 6 of 18 shot attempts.
"We talked about it after the game. He needed to go to that power move earlier," Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. "I felt like had he gone to that to start the game, he would have gotten off to a better start."
Guard Wes Washpun added nine points for Northern Iowa.
Virginia recorded eight blocked shots, which included two monster rejections by Anderson in the second half that ignited the Cavaliers' home crowd.
"We thought coming into the game that he (Anderson) was key to their team in a lot of ways," Jacobson said. "His energy and his ability to get points in a hurry (are) key, and he's played well for them."
Sophomore forward Darion Atkins, who was inserted in the starting lineup for the first time this season, recorded five of those blocks for the Cavaliers.
That momentum translated into the Panthers never being able to get back into the game after falling behind early in the second half.
Both teams were cold out of the gate, as they combined for only four points by the first media timeout.
Virginia used an 11-2 run, which included back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers, to take a 19-9 lead with 4:43 to play in the first half.
Northern Iowa responded with a 7-0 run to make it 19-16 before the Cavaliers led 21-16 at halftime.
"I felt fortunate to be within five points," Jacobson said. "Neither team shot the basketball well. It wasn't just our team that didn't make shots, but with as many opportunities (as) we had, I thought we had a legitimate chance to win the game."
Neither team cracked the 30 percent mark for the first half, as the Cavaliers shot 29.6 percent and the Panthers made only 25.9 percent. Anderson led all scorers with seven points. Washpun scored five.
NOTES: This was the first ever game between the teams. ... Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who played at Wisconsin-Green Bay, has compiled a 7-1 record against Northern Iowa during his career. ... The Panthers had won two straight games, including a 77-68 win over Virginia Commonwealth, which beat Virginia earlier this season. ... Paul Jesperson, who transferred from Virginia to Northern Iowa after last season, is on the Panthers' roster but is sitting out this season due to the NCAA transfer rule. ... Virginia is back in action Monday night when it hosts Norfolk State. Northern Iowa will host Iona next Saturday.