CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Virginia coach Tony Bennett’s challenge to his team before its home opener was simple.
“No prancing and dancing,” Bennett said he told the No. 9 Cavaliers before their 67-39 victory against Norfolk State on Sunday night. “Just get straight to work. ... I thought they responded to that pretty well.”
The Cavaliers did just that as Justin Anderson scored 11 points and Virginia (2-0) kept up its sharp shooting from 3-point territory. They hit 8 of 11 attempts in the first half in building a 42-22 lead that the Spartans never challenged, even as Bennett substituted liberally throughout. Ten players saw double-figure minutes, and 15 played in all.
The Cavaliers connected on 13 of 18 3-point attempts this season before missing 8 of 10 in the second half. Bennett said most of the shots came on clean looks, but there’s a danger in falling in love with the long ball.
Guard Malcolm Brogdon agreed, and echoed his coach’s view that an inside-out game remain the priority.
“It fell really well tonight, but that can be a curse if we fall in love with it for the next couple of games,” Brogdon said.
“I think we need to continue to play through our bigs because we have a really good inside presence this year.”
Jeff Short scored 19 points, 15 before halftime, for Norfolk State (1-1). No one else on the Spartans had more than five as they shot just 23.5 percent (12-51), but coach Robert Jones was more disappointed with what his team did on defense.
“It’s very demoralizing because we didn’t practice thay way,” he said. “We prepared better than what we showed. We knew who the shooter were. We knew what they were trying to do. ... We just didn’t execute well at all defensively.”
Mike Tobey added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Cavaliers, who hold their highest season-opening ranking since Ralph Sampson and the 1982-83 team started at No. 1.
The victory also marked Virginia’s 18th consecutive in its home opener, and sixth in a row under Bennett.
The game also marked the return of starting point guard London Perrantes and reserve swingman Evan Nolte to the Virginia lineup after both were suspended for the opener for a team rules violation.
Perrantes started and had seven points and four assists.
The Cavaliers quickly took charge. They led 13-6 after just over seven minutes before the Spartans pulled within 16-10 on LaTre’e Russell’s basket.
Russell’s shot came with 11:31 left in the half, and no one but Short scored for the rest of the half for Norfolk State.
The Cavaliers, meantime, got an array of 3-pointers from five players in running out to a comfortable advantage.
Short scored the Spartans’ last 12 points of the first half. He was the only Norfolk State player to score from midway through the first half until 18:44 remained, when Malik Thomas made a free throw. ... This was the teams’ fourth meeting since 2010-11 season. The Cavaliers won the first three by 1, 11 and 10 points.
Virginia: Virginia had 23 baskets and 19 assists. ... The Cavaliers improved to 23-0 against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schools.
Joe Harris’ graduation left Virginia fans wondering who would step up as the next go-to scorer, and through two games, Justin Anderson has led them in scoring both times. He had 18 against James Madison on Friday night and 11 on Sunday. Bennett said Anderson worked extensively on his shot in the offseason, and so far, it’s showing. A career 29.8 percent 3-point shooter, he’s 7-for-10 this year.