Bench helps Virginia top Norfolk State

Brandon Lloyd, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Though the teams met only twice before Monday, Norfolk State gave in-state foe Virginia fits in the matchups, both wins for the Cavaliers.
It was much of the same this time around. Virginia got 25 points from its bench, contributions that helped the Cavaliers hold off the pesky Spartans for a 66-56 victory Monday night at John Paul Jones Arena.
"That was important," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of the role played by his bench. "That (Norfolk State) team is very capable. They're hard to guard, they exploited us in the first half."
Guard Justin Anderson led the Cavaliers with 14 points and eight rebounds, while guard Joe Harris scored 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds.
Not starting for the first time since January 2012, Virginia forward Akil Mitchell made his presence felt with eight points and seven rebounds.
"I've been struggling lately," Mitchell said. "It's something every player goes through. I'm not bothered by it too much, and when I get in, I only care about winning."
The Cavaliers shot 45 percent for the game while outrebounding the Spartans 36-31. Norfolk State shot 36.4 percent for the game.
"It was a tough game," Norfolk State coach Robert Jones said. "Virginia is a very good defensive team and the best team in the country at 2-point field goal defense, and when they're that good, you have to make 3-pointers, and we didn't do that tonight."
Norfolk State made just four of its 15 attempts from beyond the arc.
Virginia endured a forgettable start to the second half. The Cavaliers coughed up the ball four times in the first five minutes, allowing Norfolk State (8-5) to tie the game at 32 after an early 6-0 run.
"To start the way we did in the second half is unacceptable," Bennett said. "It looked like we were kind of just messing around. There's got to be some accountability for that, and that just drove me crazy."
The Cavaliers (9-3) turned the ball over 12 times on the night.
The Spartans never led in the game, however, as Virginia used a 20-5 run to retake control at 52-37 midway through the second half.
"They got theirs," Jones said of the run. "I don't think it was what we didn't do. The things we were doing solid when we were closing the gap, we kind of got away from."
After Norfolk State got back to within 54-47 with 3:33 to play, guard Malcolm Brogdon knocked down a wide-open corner 3-pointer to extend Virginia's lead back to 10.
Norfolk State's leading scorer, guard Malcolm Hawkins, was held to 10 points, tying his lowest output of the season. Guard Pendarvis Williams led the Spartans with 12 points, and guard Marese Phelps added 10 points.
Virginia scored the first seven points of the game and held Norfolk State without a field goal through the opening five minutes. The Cavaliers' lead grew to 14-4 after a 3-pointer by forward Evan Nolte.
After the Spartans cut the lead to five, Virginia extended the margin to 22-12.
Two free throws by Williams got the Spartans to within 26-23 before Virginia took a 32-26 lead into the locker room.
The Cavaliers shot 50 percent in the half and were led by Anderson, who scored nine points. Norfolk State shot just 37.5 percent before the break, with Williams providing a team-high seven points.
Virginia is back in action next Monday when it travels to Knoxville to take on Tennessee. Norfolk State will also play next Monday, on the road against Hawaii.
NOTES: In the teams' previous meeting, Virginia beat Norfolk State 67-56 in Charlottesville last season during the first round of the NIT. ... Norfolk State G Malcolm Hawkins (10 points) continued his streak of scoring in double figures in every game this season. He has five games of 20 or more points. ... Virginia held five opponents under 50 points this season. ... The Cavaliers improved to 21-0 all-time against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (3-0 vs. Norfolk State).

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