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Virginia's Harris scores Virginia Tech for 26 points

The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Virginia guard Joe Harris entered Tuesday's rivalry game against Virginia Tech as the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading 3-point shooter. But his performance in the Cavaliers' 73-55 victory at John Paul Jones Arena was sizzling, even by his standards.

Harris scored a career-high 26 points and knocked down a season-high five 3-pointers -- all in the first half -- to spark the Cavaliers to the easy victory. Virginia swept the season series from its in-state rival for the second time in the last three seasons.

"I knew coming into the season that I was going to have to be a lot more aggressive and assertive than I have in years past," Harris said. "I got myself in a rhythm early on and I felt like it was great for us to get hot that way. I think shooting is contagious."

Akil Mitchell added 17 points and eight rebounds for the Cavaliers.

Virginia (18-6, 8-3 ACC) won for the seventh time in the last eight games. Virginia Tech (11-13, 2-9) lost its seventh straight, continuing its longest losing streak since the 2001-02 season.

Virginia Tech's Erick Green, the nation's leading scorer, finished with 22 points, but he had to work hard to get there. He missed his first nine shots and didn't hit his first field goal until 16:26 remained in the game and scored all but one of his points in the second half. Half of his points came from the foul line and he went 4 for 17 from the floor.

"I was glad to see my teammates step up," Green said. "But on my part, as a leader, it was frustrating, because I've got to be able to keep my team in the game. I didn't do that. I had a good second half. For our team to beat a good team like this, I've got to be able to put two halves together."

Hokies freshman Marshall Wood, who had hit just two field goals in his first six games back from a broken bone in a left foot, scored eight points, all in the first half.

The Cavaliers quickly built upon a 13-point lead to squash any chance of a Hokies' comeback. After Cadarian Raines opened the second half with a basket, the Cavaliers scored the next six points on a Harris three-point play and a Paul Jesperson 3-pointer to take a 43-25 lead with 16:46 left.

Green finally hit his first basket, a 3-pointer, and scored 11 consecutive Virginia Tech points to help the Hokies get within 47-36 with 14:38 left. But the Cavaliers scored the next five points to regain control and cruised from there.

"It was pretty solid team defense on him, and Jontel (Evans) was very strong and quick," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "Green got a couple of open looks that he didn't hit, but there weren't a lot of them. You could see in the second half how he decided, 'All right, I'm going to try to draw fouls and get to the lane and score that way.' But Jontel was locked in."

Virginia rode the hot shooting of Harris to an early lead. Harris, the ACC's top 3-point shooter, knocked down his first three looks from long range, giving Virginia a 9-5 edge four minutes in. The Hokies hung around despite not getting much from Green.

Green scored just one point in the first half and missed all seven of his field-goal attempts, but the Hokies got five points each from Wood and reserve guard Marquis Rankin to remain in the game.

But Virginia ripped off a 12-0 run capped by two more Harris 3-pointers to take control late in the half. Wood finally stopped the run with a 3-pointer from the left corner with 3:02 left, cutting the lead to 33-23. Harris scored 17 in the first half as the Cavaliers took a 36-23 lead into the break.

"Virginia played a magnificent game," Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said. "And we didn't play well at all. They had a lot to do with it."

NOTES: Harris is the only player in the ACC ranked in the top 10 in 3-point field-goal percentage (first), field-goal percentage (seventh) and free throw percentage (ninth). ... Virginia Tech wing Jarell Eddie, who sat out the final 17-plus minutes against Georgia Tech on Saturday after an on-court tantrum, was not in the starting lineup Tuesday. Walk-on Will Johnston instead made his first career start. ... Green entered the game averaging 25.3 points per game, which would be the third best scoring average in school history, behind Bimbo Coles (26.6) and Bob Ayersman (26.5).
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