Early UVA run takes JMU home crowd out of the game in 79-51 win

uva-jmuThe JMU Convocation Center was as hyped as it will ever be for the visit by eighth-ranked UVA Friday night. And then, in a flash, it was a lot of people who wanted to be amped otherwise sitting on their hands.

Virginia took an early 14-3 lead and never let the Dukes back into it, taking an 18-point lead into the half and sending the masses home with an early second-half run en route to posting a 79-51 win.

“The crowd can be a distraction, especially when you have a lot of young guys on your team, freshmen, playing. I thought we were all able to handle it well. I thought the older guys were able to lead well. We took care of it,” said junior guard Malcolm Brogdon, who scored 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 29 minutes.

Justin Anderson led all scorers with 18 points in 6-of-10 shooting from the field in 30 minutes. Anthony Gill added 14 points, and Darion Atkins had seven points and 10 rebounds.

The Cavs also got nice efforts from freshmen Isaiah Wilkins (eight points, five rebounds in 19 minutes), Marial Shayok (six points, three rebounds in 21 minutes) and Devon Hall (five points, five steals in 27 minutes).

Virginia led 51-33 at the half on the strength of a strong first half on offense. The Cavs made 10 of their first 11 shots from the field and finished the half shooting 69.2 percent. But the 33 points that JMU put up didn’t sit well with players, who pride themselves on being a defense-first team.

“We really weren’t playing good defense,” Gill said. “We knew we had to pick it up. A lot of times, our offense feeds off our defense. We’re a defensive-minded team. If we score a lot of points, that’s great for us, but we need to lock up on defense.”

It didn’t take Bennett to tell his team that the effort wasn’t there on the defensive end.

“We came in there like, that’s not good enough, fellas. We hold ourselves to a high standard here. Coach Bennett holds us to a high standard. We want to abide by that,” Gill said.

The second half was much better on the defensive end for Virginia, which held JMU to 18 points in the second half on 5-of-25 shooting. After the Dukes hit seven of their 16 shots from three-point range in the first half, they were limited to 1-of-10 from three in the second 20 minutes.

The performance validated Bennett’s plan to use the opener on the road to test his team’s character early.

“We have a lot more confidence in ourselves,” Brogdon said. “But at the same time, we try to ignore expectations. We try to ignore the crowd. We try to block out all distractions and just be confident on the road. You have to come to this place and be poised and confident.”

“To know that we can go on the road and get a win, that definitely prepares us for later in the year. We have to play teams like VCU and Maryland on the road. This helps us get ready for those games,” Gill said.

– Column by Chris Graham


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