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.
“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.
Coming off an inspiring win at Virginia Tech, the Terrapins just didn’t have enough energy left in this one.
“We were just a half-step slow and a little bit lethargic,” Turgeon said, “and you can’t be that way against a team that’s playing as well as they’re playing right now.”
The Cavaliers limited Maryland to one basket in the opening four minutes of the second half while extending a six-point halftime lead to 44-32. After Seth Allen scored for the Terrapins, Jesperson bagged a 3-pointer on the other end to make it 47-34.
It was 51-37 with 13 minutes left before Turgeon called a timeout, took out Len and instructed his team to employ a full-court press. The Cavaliers struggled under the pressure, and the Terrapins scored five straight points to cut the gap to 51-42.
But Virginia answered with a basket by Harris and two 3-pointers by Evan Nolte for a 59-46 advantage.
Maryland closed to 63-55 with 6:48 remaining and 74-67 in the final minute, but the Cavaliers had an answer on each occasion.
“Every time we got on a run, they would hit a good shot,” Allen lamented.
Anderson was jeered by Maryland students virtually every time he touched the ball.
The 6-foot-6 freshman committed to Maryland in 2011, but after Terps coach Gary Williams retired, Anderson changed his mind and accepted a scholarship from Virginia.
Anderson went 5 for 14 from the floor but was 6 for 6 at the line and grabbed nine rebounds.
Maryland missed eight of its first 11 shots from the floor and trailed 16-9 after the Cavaliers got successive 3-pointers from Harris. It was 20-11 before a layup by Allen and a dunk by Nick Faust sparked a 13-5 run that got the Terrapins to 25-24.
Minutes later, a follow-shot by Charles Mitchell and a driving layup by Faust tied it at 28.
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