By HANK KURZ Jr.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. —
Jontel Evans and his Virginia teammates are finally starting to see the Joe Harris they knew he could be.
Harris hit five first-half 3-pointers and scored a career-high 26 points and Virginia held national scoring leader Erick Green without a field goal into the second half and swept the season series with Virginia Tech, 73-55, Tuesday night.
“Joe finally has that killer mindset that we’ve been wanting him to have since last season,” Evans said.
Akil Mitchell added 17 points for the Cavaliers (18-6, 8-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won their third game in a row and beat the struggling Hokies for the third consecutive time. The loss was the seventh in a row overall for Virginia Tech.
Harris wasted no time making his mark on the game, even after missing a layup on the Cavaliers’ first possession. He then made a 3-pointer from the right corner, another from the top of the key and a third from the right wing in a span of 1:43.
“I thought it was impressive. He made me look like a good coach when he comes out and plays like that,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “He had great rhythm, he was hunting his shot, moving hard off of screens. ... I love seeing that.”
Two of the shots came from right in front of the Hokies bench.
“We hoped to slow him down a bit, but he came out of the gates blazing,” Hokies coach James Johnson said. “Before we could make the switch and get someone else on him, he already had nine points on three 3-pointers right in our mouth.”
In his last three games, Harris is 21 of 30 from the field, and 10-for-15 on 3-pointers.
The Hokies (11-13, 2-9), meanwhile, we missing their leader.
Green, who came in averaging 25.3 points, missed his first nine field goal tries and had just one point at halftime. He made his first field goal, a 3-pointer, with 16:26 to play and finished with 22 points, but on just 4-for-17 shooting.
“I think he was trying to get the other guys involved a little bit,” Johnson said of Green’s slow start. “We don’t have time for other guys to get involved because then Erick starts standing around and we need Erick to be the aggressor right now.”
Green scored 35 points in the teams’ first meeting, a 74-58 Virginia victory on Jan. 24.
Virginia trailed 18-17 until Teven Jones made a 3-pointer with 10:31 to go in the first half, sparking a half-ending 19-5 run. Harris hit his last two 3-pointers in the run, and Virginia led 36-23.
It was 43-25 when Green hit his first 3-pointer and followed by scoring 11 straight points for the Hokies, pulling them within 47-36, but Virginia answered with a 10-3 run and the Hokies never challenged again.
The Hokies started walk-on Will Johnston in place of Jarell Eddie, who slammed a bottle down early in the second half of the Hokies’ loss to Georgia Tech on Sunday and sat the last 17 minutes of the game. Johnson said the decision was to start Johnston was based on performance and not a continuing punishment of Eddie, the Hokies’ second-leading scorer (13.3).
“We need him to play,” Johnson said of Eddie, now 2-for-21 from the field in the Hokies’ last three games. “I’ve got to try to shake something up a little bit. I don’t have much, but I’ve got to try to shake something up.”
Johnston made the Hokies’ first basket, a 3-pointer, but Harris’ fast start put the Hokies behind.
Freshman Marshall Wood gave the Hokies a big early lift with eight first half points, but didn’t score again and still finished as the Hokies’ second-leading scorer. Cadarian Raines added six points and eight rebounds.
The Hokies finished shooting 34.6 percent (18 of 52) overall, and 8 of 25 (32 percent) on 3s.