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Virginia routs Tennessee State, 79-36

No. 8 Cavaliers go on 32-0 run; Anderson, Gill finish combined 13-13 from field

The Virginia men’s basketball team pounced early against Tennessee State Tuesday night at John Paul Jones Arena.

Riding a ridiculous advantage in height—the Tigers played just one athlete taller than 6-foot-6, freshman forward Zachary Lee—the No. 8 Cavaliers piled up a 22-0 edge in points in the paint and a plus-15 rebounding margin to go into halftime with a 42-17 lead.

At that point, junior center Mike Tobey had already surpassed his previous career-high of 10 rebounds with 13. Junior forward Anthony Gill was 6-6 from the field with 15 points and six boards. And junior guard Justin Anderson had 12 points on 4-4 shooting, including 3-3 from 3-point range.

Though Tennessee State whittled the Cavalier lead to 30-17 on freshman guard Rodney Simeon’s swished 3-pointer 2:52 before the break, Virginia responded with a colossal 32-0 run. 30-17 became 62-17, and the Cavaliers left the court winners, 79-36, for their first 5-0 start under coach Tony Bennett.

“We did take care of business off the jump ball,” Anderson said. “I think we came out really strong. I think Tennessee State gave us a different challenge than we have seen all year as far as their athleticism [and] as far as their ability to catch and shoot really fast, which made us be more disciplined in terms of getting to shooters, closing out higher and being smarter with our ball movement and extra passes.”

Virginia extended its home winning streak to 15 games as the Tigers (2-3) tied the third-lowest point total by a Cavalier opponent in the shot-clock era. Virginia held the opposition under 40 points for the 10th time in Bennett’s six years in Charlottesville.

Anderson finished 7-7 from the field and 5-5 from beyond the arc for a game-high 20 points. He scored the Cavaliers’ first eight of the second half on two triples and a right-handed layup in transition.

Tobey collected the first double-double of his Virginia career, scoring 13 points with 16 rebounds in 18 minutes of play. The Monroe, New York native pulled down four offensive rebounds—one fewer than Gill, who finished with 16 points and nine boards—as Virginia enjoyed an 18-5 edge in second-chance points.

“In the offseason, I really wanted to focus on rebounding,” Tobey said. “Before this game, I had been doing better than I had the past two years, but I still wanted to improve more because I feel like it is important for my team. I think just being stronger has made me better.”

The Cavaliers outrebounded the Tigers 49-22 and scored 40 points in the paint to the Tigers’ 12. Virginia also scored 11 fast-break points while holding Tennessee State without a transition basket.

Senior forward Darion Atkins flipped in the first points of the game 17 seconds in. After two free throws and a two-handed dunk by Gill, Anderson stole the ball from Tigers freshman guard Darreon Reddick, bounced it to junior guard Malcolm Brogdon and headed for the far left corner.

Brogdon passed the ball back to Anderson, who knocked down the 3-pointer, took the foul and converted the free throw for his first collegiate four-point play and a 10-2 Virginia lead.

After Tobey snagged an offensive rebound and hit two foul shots with 12:54 left in the half, the Cavaliers led 19-2.

Then, Tennessee State momentarily pushed back, producing a 15-11 run to cut Virginia’s advantage to 17 points. Junior guard Marcus Roper started the run with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and after Simeon knocked down a triple out of the under-12 media timeout, junior guard Xavier Richards rejected Tobey inside.

Tobey scored five points in the next three minutes as the Cavaliers maintained a 26-10 lead.

Gill began the Cavaliers’ longest unanswered scoring run of the year with an and-one off of Brogdon’s textbook entry pass. Gill and Tobey combined for Virginia’s next six points before Anderson cut to the right corner, caught a chest pass from sophomore point guard London Perrantes and nailed a 3-pointer six seconds before the first-half horn.

Tennessee State did not score between the 2:52 mark of the first half and the 12:51 mark of the second, when Richards—who had 10 points on 5-9 shooting—made a layup.

With 4:31 to play, Bennett subbed in walk-ons senior guard Rob Vozenilek and junior forward Caid Kirven, and 38 seconds later, fellow walk-ons senior guard Maleek Frazier and sophomore forward Jeff Jones entered the game. The four comprise what Bennett calls Virginia’s “green-machine group,” practicing in green jerseys against the Cavaliers’ scholarship players.

“I was really glad that our green-machine group…got five quality minutes where they played really hard,” Bennett said. “That meant the world to me because they sacrifice so much and help to make us better.”

Vozenilek hit a jump shot and assisted on redshirt freshman point guard Devon Hall’s 3-pointer from the wing, and Jones corralled an offensive rebound before pivoting and laying the ball in with his left hand.

Freshman guard B.J. Stith scored the first baskets of his collegiate career, laying the ball in with 9:07 to play and knocking down an elbow jump shot to put the Cavaliers at 70 points on the night.

“It was great for a split second,” Stith said of his first bucket. “Then I realized I had to get back to the pack-line [defense].”

Virginia travels to Brooklyn, New York for the Barclays Center Classic this weekend. The Cavaliers play La Salle—a Sweet 16 participant in 2013— Friday night at 9:30 p.m.

“I have never been in the Barclays Center, but I hear it is a beautiful facility,” Bennett said. “It is always exciting in these tournaments to play in nice venues, go against some quality competition and keep getting better.”

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