Virginia’s stingy defense wasn’t up to form — and it didn’t matter.
Joe Harris scored 22 points, and the Cavaliers showed their flexibility with an uncharacteristic lights-out shooting performance in an 80-69 victory over Maryland on Sunday.
Virginia, which leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in fewest points allowed per game, gave up a season high. Yet the Cavaliers (17-6, 7-3) never trailed after halftime in their fourth straight win over the Terrapins (17-7, 5-6).
Virginia improved to 3-4 on the road, 2-3 in the ACC.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the win was the fashion in which it was accomplished. The Cavaliers weren’t sharp defensively, but they shot 26 for 48 from the floor — including 11 for 19 on 3-point tries.
Justin Anderson scored 17, Akil Mitchell added 13 and Paul Jesperson contributed 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc.
“We’re not an offensive juggernaut, but we needed that because we gave up 69 points,” coach Tony Bennett said. “That was not particularly a great defensive effort, I’ll be honest with you, especially down the stretch. That’s OK. We had enough to get away with it, but we’ve got to tighten up.”
It was only the third time this season, and the first since Nov. 20, that Virginia scored at least 80 points.
“I think we got into a good flow today,” Harris said. “Everyone was moving really well without the ball. We shot well as a team and kept scoring.”
The victory gave the Cavaliers a one-game lead over idle North Carolina in the ACC and got them within a half-game of Duke, which faced Boston College on Sunday night.
“What keeps it real for us, and what keeps us humble, is knowing when we play well we have a chance to compete and be successful against a lot of teams,” Bennett said. “And when we’re off our game, we struggle.”
Virginia has won three in a row at Maryland for the first time since 1991-93.
“We tried hard. We just couldn’t guard them,” coach Mark Turgeon said.
Dez Wells scored 13 for the Terrapins, who fell to 14-2 at home. Center Alex Len, who was double-teamed almost every time he touched the ball, had nine points and seven rebounds.
“I didn’t think he was very good in the first half, or the start of the second half,” Turgeon said of Len. “The physicality got to him.”