CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Preseason tournaments have not been kind to Tony Bennett and his Virginia team during his tenure as the Cavaliers coach. The Cavaliers had opportunities in places like Maui, Cancun and St. Thomas, but have never been able to get over the hump.
Saturday night, in the championship game of the Corpus Christi Challenge, Bennett's Cavaliers broke through with an 83-63 win over the Missouri State Bears to take home the inaugural crown.
"I thought we responded after a very sluggish start," Bennett said. "I told our guys that you have to have an edge. You have to play the way you need to all of the time and when we did that, we played good stretches of basketball."
Virginia guard Justin Anderson scored a game-high 23 points, including 17 in the first half off the bench.
"I saw we were lacking a little bit in the first half," Anderson said. "Our energy wasn't as high as it normally is. I wanted to make sure I was that spark for our team and I rose up and was able to hit a couple of shots."
Virginia (7-1) shot 56.6 percent from the field and made nine 3-pointers. The Cavaliers also out-rebounded the Bears 38-22 and had 20 assists.
"(Missouri State) really tested our defense," Anderson said. "I'm really glad we got to play against them. They play a similar style to Wisconsin so it was great preparation for that game."
Virginia hosts Wisconsin on Wednesday night in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Guard Joe Harris scored 15 points for the Cavaliers on 5-of-6 shooting from the field and swingman Mike Tobey added 14 points and six rebounds.
Harris, who scored 30 points on 12 made field goals in two games, took home the tournament MVP.
" (Harris) was steady," Bennett said of his senior. "We're different this year, it's not that he has to do everything in force this season."
Forwards Gavin Thurman and Jarmar Gulley scored 14 points apiece for the Bears on a combined 10-of-18 shooting. The Bears shot 41.7 percent for the game.
Missouri State (6-1) led 11-3 early in the first half before Virginia used a 25-8 run that spanned 12 minutes to end the half.
The Cavaliers led 32-22 at intermission.
Only four free throws were shot between the two teams in the first half before the whistles started blowing early in the second frame. Virginia finished the game 14-of-24 from the line while Missouri State shot 13-of-21 from the charity stripe.
Virginia opened the second half on a 10-3 run, which included a Harris 3-pointer and thunderous one-handed jam, and never looked back en route to the 20-point win.
"They're very, very good," Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said. "They've got everything you need. We just struggled with them and I thought we did some good things early and then they just dug in."
Missouri State was led by Gulley with seven points in the first half while Thurman added six. The Bears turned the ball over 10 times in the half.
"We had some self-inflicted turnovers in the first half and you just can't do that," Lusk said. "Give Virginia a lot of credit. I told our guys this was a good trip for us and we have to get better."
Missouri State is back in action Wednesday night when they host Cameron.
NOTES: This was the first-ever meeting between the two schools. ... Missouri State is one win from 600 as a Division 1 program dating to 1982 (599-377). ... Virginia G Justin Anderson's 23 points were one shy of his career high of 24 against Iowa last season ... Virginia out-rebounded seven of its eight opponents this season.