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Justin Anderson scored a career-high 18 points and fellow freshman Taylor Barnette added a career-high 13 as Virginia extended its home winning streak to 19 games Sunday with a 68-50 victory over St. John's in the second round of the NIT.
Virginia's Joe Harris (center) drives to the hoop against St. John's Jamal Branch (right) and Amir Garrett in Charlottesville on Sunday.
Virginia's Mike Tobey (center) makes a shot between St. John's Sir'Dominic Pointer (left) and Chris Obekpa in Charlottesville on Sunday. Virginia won 68-50.
Virginia's Justin Anderson dunks after getting a pass from teammate Jontel Evans in Charlottesville on Sunday.
Virginia guard Justin Anderson (23) drives past St. John's guard Phil Greene IV (1) on Sunday in Charlottesville. Virginia won 68-50.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — To analyze Tony Bennett’s substitution pattern Sunday, one might think Virginia’s coach had an eye on the future.
No chance of that.
Bennett went to his freshman-laden bench early and the Cavalier youngsters made a huge contribution as Virginia beat St. John’s 68-50 in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
With starter Justin Anderson leading the way, four UVa freshmen combined to score 48 points.
Seasoning was not an issue.
“The freshmen were the ones that helped us,” Bennett said. “They earned [the extended minutes]. If it was playing all the upperclassmen and none of the first years, or if it was playing all of the first years, whoever is helping us the most is playing.”
Virginia, one of four No. 1 seeds, will play host to Iowa (23-12) at 7 p.m. Wednesday for the right to advance to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The Hawkeyes defeated visiting Stony Brook 75-63 on Friday night.
St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said of Virginia after Sunday’s game: “They’re an NCAA-caliber that just happens to be playing in the NIT.”
If the Cavaliers (23-11) played all of their games at home, nobody could disagree with him.
In its school-record 21st home game of the season, UVa improved its record to 20-1 at John Paul Jones Arena, including 19 victories in a row since a 59-53 loss to Delaware on Nov. 13.
A hearty crowd of 8,457 turned out for an unusually early 11 a.m. tip-off and saw the Cavaliers miss six of their first seven shots.
With his team trailing 8-4, Bennett called a 30-second timeout with 11:43 left in the first half and inserted freshmen Teven Jones, Mike Tobey and Evan Nolte.
Jones immediately hit a 3-pointer, Tobey made layups with his right and left hands, and the Cavaliers took a lead, 9-8, that they would not surrender.
“I thought the first-years really gave us a lift and that was pivotal,” Bennett said. “They shot it well, made good decisions, got to the line. They really pushed this thing through for us.”
At the 8:09 mark, Bennett made the call for a fourth freshman reserve, Taylor Barnette, a 6-3 combo guard. Over a three-possession, 90-second span, Barnette scored eight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers.
Barnette had 13 points in 13 minutes and Tobey had 10 points in 15 minutes, but the showpiece of the group continued to be Anderson, a freakish forward who had a season-high 18 points, four assists and three blocked shots.
“We’ve got an opportunity to keep playing basketball so why not take it,” said Anderson, who had 15 points Tuesday night in a 67-56 victory over Norfolk. “My dream growing up, coming from the small town [Montross] where I come from, was to play basketball on TV.
“We were on ESPN today. That’s my dream.”
UVa relied on veterans Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell for most of the season, but Harris, a first-team All-ACC selection, experienced some of the shooting issues that have plagued him in recent games.
Harris was 2 of 7 from the field, did not make a 3-pointer, and finished with seven points after scoring in double figures for the previous 14 games. Mitchell finished with 11 points and five rebounds, but had five turnovers for the second game in a row.
The Cavaliers’ lone senior starter, point guard Jontel Evans, missed all four of his free-throw attempts Sunday and is 2 for 10 from the line over the past seven games. Harris has made 13 of 24 free throws in the past four games after going 23 of 27 in the previous four.
Anderson came to the rescue, making nine of 10 free throws Sunday to improve to 61 of 81 (75.3 percent) for the season.
“As he continues to mature and be sound, he’s just going to get better and better,” Bennett said.
“He’s unafraid and he makes plays in different ways. When we’ve played well, he’s an ‘X’ factor guy for us.”
St. John’s (17-16) lost for the eighth time in the last 10 games, with five of the losses coming after the Feb. 24 suspension of leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison for the remainder of the season.
Because of the unavailability of floor time, owing to a concert Saturday by country artist Luke Bryan, St. John’s practiced at VCU on Saturday before busing to Charlottesville in the morning.
“We got off to a good start,” Lavin said. “If we hadn’t, maybe there would have been some ‘could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.’
“We played a number of [NCAA] tournament teams in the Big East. We beat Florida Gulf Coast after they beat Miami. Virginia could have won a couple of games in the [NCAA] tournament.”
ST. JOHN’S (17-16)
Obekpa 2-4 0-0 4, Sampson 6-15 2-2 14, Branch 0-5 2-4 2, Greene IV 8-18 1-1 18, Pointer 2-7 0-0 4, Bourgault 0-2 0-1 0, Jones 0-2 0-0 0, Garrett 3-8 1-2 8, Lipscomb 0-1 0-0 0, White 0-0 0-0 0, Ndiaye 0-0 0-0 0, Sealy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-62 6-10 50.
Mitchell 5-5 1-2 11, Evans 2-3 0-4 4, Jesperson 0-4 0-0 0, Harris 2-7 3-6 7, Anderson 4-8 9-10 18, Browman 0-0 0-0 0, Barnette 5-7 0-0 13, Jones 1-2 2-2 5, Tobey 5-6 0-0 10, Nolte 0-2 0-0 0, Kirven 0-0 0-0 0, Rogers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-44 15-24 68.
Halftime—Virginia 32-21. 3-Point Goals—St. John’s 2-16 (Garrett 1-3, Greene IV 1-6, Lipscomb 0-1, Pointer 0-2, Bourgault 0-2, Branch 0-2), Virginia 5-15 (Barnette 3-5, Anderson 1-2, Jones 1-2, Nolte 0-1, Harris 0-2, Jesperson 0-3). Fouled Out—Obekpa. Rebounds—St. John’s 35 (Obekpa 10), Virginia 33 (Mitchell 9). Assists—St. John’s 7 (Pointer 4), Virginia 19 (Evans 5). Total Fouls—St. John’s 22, Virginia 13. A—8,457.
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