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No. 9 Men's basketball cruises in home opener

Cavaliers dispatch Norfolk State, 67-39; Anderson paces team with 11 points

Five and a half minutes into the Virginia men’s basketball team’s home opener Sunday night at John Paul Jones Arena, Norfolk State held a 6-5 lead.

The Spartans’ advantage did not last for long. The No. 9 Cavaliers scored the next eight points off a dunk by junior center Mike Tobey and two 3-pointers from junior guard Malcolm Brogdon. By the 7:18 mark of the first half, Virginia led 29-13.

The Cavalier run held up as Virginia rolled to a 67-39 win to improve to 6-0 in home openers under coach Tony Bennett. Virginia (2-0) has now won 18 consecutive home openers since a Dec. 7, 1996 loss to Clemson.

“We used the term in the pregame, ‘No prancing and dancing,’” Bennett said. “Just get straight to work and don’t try to be anything but who you have to be. That was the approach tonight, and I thought they responded to that pretty well.”

Back in John Paul Jones Arena for the first time since last year’s ACC championship campaign, the Cavaliers had a new banner up in the rafters — though the team did not hold a banner-raising ceremony prior to tipoff.

“They put it up — they’re not taking it away — so that’s good enough for me,” Bennett said.

Junior guard Justin Anderson paced the Cavaliers with 11 points, as seven Cavaliers scored six points or more. Tobey and junior forward Anthony Gill controlled the paint, combining for 19 points and 15 rebounds. And sophomore point guard London Perrantes provided a steady hand in the backcourt with four assists and zero turnovers.

“We did a great job executing tonight,” Anderson said. “We are starting to get a feel for each other — knowing where each other are. I think this team is slowly coming together, but know we have a lot more improvement.”

Freshman guard Marial Shayok came off the bench aflame, sinking his first three jump shots, two from distance. Senior forward Darion Atkins scored nine points — all in the second half — on 4-4 shooting.

“I feel like we have a lot of offensive weapons,” Perrantes said. “We said that a lot during the summer and now people can see it. We have a lot of freshmen stepping up and playing good minutes. We also have a lot of depth and experience from all the older guys. It’s good that we are all unselfish and capable of making that next pass and the open shot.”

The Cavaliers entered halftime up 42-22 after shooting 54.2 percent in the first half, including a red-hot 8-of-11 from 3-point range. Brogdon, Anderson and Shayok nailed two treys apiece in the opening stanza, when junior guard Jeff Short mustered the majority of Norfolk State’s offense with 15 points.

Bennett said the team moved the ball fluently against the Spartan defense.

“You know, Norfolk State was switching between man-to-man and zone,” Bennett said. “Guys — when their feet are set, hands ready — we want them to shoot those with confidence, and especially if it touches the high post.”

Virginia’s cushion held in the first 10 minutes of the second half, when Anderson dialed up an early transition 3-pointer and Atkins poured in seven points, twice scoring off Shayok helpers.

The lead ballooned to 61-32 with seven minutes to play when Tobey — who said he was happy to improve upon his performance Friday night at James Madison, when he fouled out and played just 15 minutes — dropped in a jump hook after rattling home a baseline jump shot on Virginia’s previous possession. Gill followed with a put-back off of a Brogdon miss.

The Spartans did not substantively counter, allowing Bennett to insert walk-ons sophomore Jeff Jones, junior Caid Kirven and seniors Maleek Frazier and Rob Vozenilek at the end of regulation.

Though the Cavaliers finished 10-of-21 from long range, Bennett said his team must be careful not to adopt a bombs-away offensive mentality.

“It would be a mistake if we fell in love with the 3-point shot,” Bennett said. “With good basketball, the ball has to rotate — the ball has to touch the paint off the dribble, off the post up.”

Virginia plays South Carolina State at home Tuesday night at 7 p.m.