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Blocks bolster Cavaliers' defense
Seven Cavaliers have at least 10 blocks this season.
Virginia guard Justin Anderson blocks a shot along with Virginia forward Akil Mitchell near the end of the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville, Va., Sunday, March 10, 2013. Virginia beat Maryland in overtime 61-58. (AP Photo/Norm Shafer)
Monday, March 11, 2013
Known for its defense since Tony Bennett's 2009 arrival as head coach, the Virginia men's basketball team has added a new wrinkle in Year 4.
The Cavaliers would have been hard-pressed to finish off a 61-58 overtime victory over Maryland without a season-high nine blocked shots, five by 6-foot-6 freshman, 226-pound Justin Anderson.
Four of the blocks came in the final 5 minutes, 32 seconds of regulation, including Anderson's block of a Pe'Shon Howard layup attempt with two seconds left.
It was the 134th block of the season for the Cavaliers, who did not have more than 81 in any of Bennett's first three seasons.
What's more, Virginia's leading shot-blocker from the 2011-12 season, Darion Atkins, has missed eight games while trying to guard against a stress reaction turning into a stress fracture.
Atkins had played a total of 38 minutes since Jan. 12, but found the opportunity during a seven-minute stint Sunday to block two shots.
Atkins' two blocks left him with 27 blocks for the season - eight more than he had all of last season - but he already had yielded the team lead to Anderson, who now has 32 blocks.
Anderson played at Montrose Christian in Rockville, Md., also the alma mater of fourth-year UVa walk-on Doug Browman. Montrose Christian coach Stu Vedder was at the game Sunday.
"We were talking after the game and coach Vedder said, 'Some guys are like a pogo stick,' " Bennett said, "But when Justin goes up, he's a powerful jumper. He goes up with force. He goes up pretty broad and wide.
"When he goes up for a rebound, he can get knocked a little bit or tipped and it doesn't bother him because he's got some mass. Timing and power have helped him become a really good shot-blocker."
The Cavaliers have seven players with at least 10 blocks, including first-team All-ACC selection Joe Harris with 15.
Anderson blocked a layup attempt by 7-foot-1, 255-pound Maryland center Alex Len on the first possession of the game Sunday, then Anderson and 6-11 Mike Tobey blocked Len shot attempts in the second half.
"We're getting beat so much that that's our last line of defense," Bennett said with a chuckle. "We've got to do a better job [of keeping opposing players out of the lane] but the ability to have that [shot-blocking threat] really helps your defense."
The Cavaliers rallied from a 17-point first-half deficit, largely as the result of a defensive effort that limited Maryland to 25-percent shooting (8-of-25) in the second half and overtime.
Virginia's 134 blocked shots are the most in a season since 1994-95, when the Cavaliers reached the final eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Kris Hunter had 88 blocked shots that season and nobody has had more than 40 since then.
Odds 'n' ends
The Cavaliers raised their record at John Paul Jones Arena to 18-1, with the last 17 victories in succession. UVa was 9-0 at home in ACC play for the first time, a reflection of this year's move from 16 to 18 regular-season conference games. The Cavaliers were 8-0 in home ACC play in 1981, 1982 and 2007.
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