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January 11, 2014

Wahoos storm Raleigh, win 76-45

With 14:15 left in the second half in Raleigh, Justin Anderson skied for an offensive rebound to the left of UVa's basket. He had the presence of mind to know his momentum was taking him out of bounds, so he jumped, turned, threw the ball of an NC State player. And then had to dart out of the way so it wouldn't hit him.

His team was leading by 25 points.

UVa got out on a 21-4 run, saw all five starters score in the game's first 3:53, and handed the Wolfpack its worst home loss since the 1992-1993 season with a 76-45 thrashing on Saturday evening.

Led by 16 points from both Mike Tobey and Joe Harris, with Malcolm Brogdon adding 13, the Wahoos moved to 12-4 on the year and 3-0 in the ACC with the win. It's the first time Virginia has won its first three conference games by double digits.

"That's what happened to us against Tennessee," head coach Tony Bennett said, referencing UVa's 87-52 loss late last month. "We came out, we were on, we got some turnovers, turned them into fast-break points, we were pretty locked in defensively, and they were flat. And we've been on the other end of that. So I understand that. But I think our guys responded the right way after a solid win at home. We came out and tried to be ready to go."

Harris, who played just 20 minutes because of second-half foul trouble (and because the outcome was never in doubt), had one of his most-complete games of the year. He not only shot 50 percent from the field and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, but he also drew the toughest cover on defense: State's T.J. Warren, who came in leading the ACC in scoring at 23.4 per game.

By the time Mark Gottfried took Warren out with 9:17 to play, his stat line was brutal: 1-of-9 shooting, four points, four turnovers.

"We knew he's an extremely talented player ," Harris said of Warren, admitting he didn't know until yesterday that he'd be called on to cover the Wolfpack star. "[But] our defense isn't solely based on these individual matchups. It's a collective unit against the ball."

Not only did UVa manage to hold Warren to his worst game of the season but the Cavaliers also held Anthony "Cat" Barber to 1-for-6 shooting with three points, one assist, and two turnovers when he came in averaging 12.3 points and twice a many assists as turnovers.

"Collectively, our team defense," Harris said, "just being in gaps, being sound, being in the right spot, getting good ball pressure, being physical, just sticking to what we practice...is what forced them to take some tough shots and led to some of their best players having off nights."

UVa wasted little time in jumping all over NCSU (11-5, 1-2) from the start. After Harris scored in the first 19 seconds and Barber made one of two from the line 20 seconds later, London Perrantes (eight points, five assists, two steals, and no turnovers in 19 minutes) and then Tobey scored.

Though Kyle Washington completed an old-fashioned three-point play to cut it to 6-4 with 17:25 left in the half, the Pack wouldn't score again until Ralston Turner hit a 3-point more than six minutes later.

By that point, UVa, which hasn't trailed since the horn sounded in Knoxville, was up 21-7 and closed the first half on a 27-18 run thanks to 18 of 30 shooting, eight assists, and just three turnovers. Most importantly? The Cavaliers weren't lighting it up from deep. Instead they were living in the paint, where they outscored NC State 24-6 in the first half and 38-16 for the game, and dominating in points-off-turnovers (22-8).

"We're not used to being in that spot," Bennett said of being up 48-25 at intermission. "We just talked about coming out with an edge. You can't play the game comfortably, especially on the road."

UVa, which now has a three-game winning streak in Raleigh, wanted to keep pushing defensively in the second half and did that, holding State to its lowest-scoring half of the season in the final 20 minutes.

"I think they're more on task," Bennett said of his team's energy in ACC play. "It's pretty simple: Stay on task. Let's get after it. Let's have an edge. Let's be short, let's be crisp... and let's play that way. And move on from a mistake you made or a good play. That's in the moment. You've got to play."

This UVa team, of course, hadn't done that in the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Cavaliers, after getting blasted at UT, have flipped a switch. They've won their first three in the league for the first time since 2010 and, with a huge game in Durham Monday night against No. 16-ranked Duke, have the chance to be 4-0 in the ACC for the first time since 1995.

"We'll be purposeful in what we do," Bennett said of the day off tomorrow before the game in Cameron Indoor in 48 hours. "We have to be sharp and ready. Certainly, we'll play a team that is going to be ready."

Duke, which lost at Clemson on Saturday 72-59, was picked to finish second in the ACC but is now 1-2 in league play.



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