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Virginia overcame myriad mistakes Tuesday to earn an NIT first-round victory over Norfolk State.
Virginia guard Jontel Evans (1) and Norfolk State guard Malcolm Hawkins struggle for a loose ball during the first half of a first-round NIT college basketball game in Charlottesville.
Virginia forward Evan Nolte (11) tries to make a shot as Norfolk State forward Rob Johnson (1) defends during the first half of a first-round NIT college basketball game Tuesday in Charlottesville.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Virginia men's basketball coach Tony Bennett had challenged his players to be "the best NIT team" they could be, which wasn't exactly the case Tuesday night at John Paul Jones Arena.
You name a cardinal sin, Virginia committed it -- twice fouling on 3-pointers, failing to get the ball past midcourt in 10 seconds, missing free throws, putting Norfolk State in the double bonus with more than seven minutes left.
But, the Cavaliers prevailed, getting six points from Justin Anderson in a late three-possession, one-minute span and holding off Norfolk State 67-56 at John Paul Jones Arena.
It was the 18th straight home victory for the Cavaliers, who raised their record at home to 19-1. UVa had lost five of its previous NIT games and was 3-10 in the NCAA and NIT events since 1997.
Virginia (22-11) will meet St. John's (17-15) in a second-round game in Charlottesville. The Red Storm advanced with a 63-61 victory over St. Joseph's.
Norfolk State had gone 16-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular season, which got the Spartans an automatic berth in the NIT . Norfolk State, which had joined Virginia in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, finished 21-12.
The Spartans had played at JPJ once previously, when the Cavaliers staged a late comeback and beat Norfolk State 50-49 in December of 2010.
Senior forward Rob Johnson had 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for the Spartans, who also got 16 points from Pendarvis Williams, who was 4-of-16 from the field
Anderson and Akil Mitchell had 15 points apiece for Virginia, which also got 12 from Joe Harris.
Virginia had separate 9-0, 7-0 and 8-0 runs in the first half, the last of which enabled the Cavaliers to go into halftime with a 26-16 lead.
Norfolk State had jumped out to an 8-0 lead to start the game as Virginia was plagued by uncharacteristic ball-handling difficulties.
The Cavaliers, committing fewer than 11 turnovers per game for the season, had four in the first 4:45 and 10 by the half.
Mitchell, arguably Virginia's most consistent player over the past three weeks, committed four first-half turnovers and was 0-for-3 from the free-throw line after going 22-of-26 on free throws over the previous six games.
As a team, UVa was 3-for-8 from the line in the first half, including the missed front end of a one-and-one by Harris, who had struggled from the line in the Cavaliers' 75-56 loss to North Carolina State in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.
Harris' 3-pointer with 1:50 remaining helped spark the Cavaliers' spurt before halftime. He also had six rebounds, all at the defensive end, as Norfolk State went 5-for-27 (18.5 percent) from the field in the first 20 minutes.
Virginia's 43.5-percent shooting in the first half was nothing to brag about, although the Cavaliers got a big lift from freshman point guard Teven Jones, an unusually early substitute following three Jontel Evans turnovers.
Jones had a pair of 3-pointers and he and Anderson shared halftime scoring honors for the Cavaliers with six points.
Johnson had nine first-half points for the Spartans, all on 3-pointers and all before the second TV timeout with 11:01 remaining.
Norfolk State proceeded to miss 15 of its last 16 shots to finish the half.
That changed immediately, as season scoring leader Williams hit 3-pointers on Norfolk State's first two possessions of the second half.
Williams had gone 1-for-8 from the field in the first half, including 0-for-3 on 3-pointers.
Harris subsequently picked up Williams defensively and the Cavs responded with 3-pointers by Harris and freshman Evan Nolte that made it 32-23.
At that point, UVa's freshmen had accounted for 20 points and they finished with 39.
There were a total of 47 personal fouls in the game, including 27 on the Spartans, who incurred 18 fouls in the second half, eventually leading to the disqualification of Williams and Malcolm Hawkins.
"I've never played in a game like that," said UVa senior Jontel Evans, who was knocked to the floor on a basket with 6:54 remaining and did not return to the floor for several minuters.
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