HARRISONBURG, Va. — Coach Tony Bennett and No. 9 Virginia have become a drawing card in the state, and with good reason.
Sporting their highest ranking to start the season since 1982-83, the Cavaliers attracted the largest crowd to James Madison’s Convocation Center in 20 years, then quickly took the crowd of 6,782 out of the game en route to a 79-51 victory.
“I thought early in the game, obviously, being in this environment, that there had to be some composure. We talked about not getting sped up,” Bennett said.
Instead, Virginia bolted to a 14-3 lead in the first 4:25, let the Dukes within single digits just one more time and led by as many as 29 after halftime.
Justin Anderson led Virginia with 18 points, Anthony Gill had 15 and Malcolm Brogdon 14 for the Cavaliers, who also got an impressive debut from freshman Isaiah Wilkins. The stepson of NBA great Dominique had 8 points, 5 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals in 19 minutes.
“That was a good opening act for Isaiah,” Bennett said.
James Madison, coming off an 11-20 season, got 15 points from freshman Hari Hall, all in the first half, and 14 from Jackson Kent. The Dukes were playing without scoring leader Andre Nation (15.4 ppg) and reserve forward Tom Vodanovich, who were suspended for violating team rules in the summer, and were short on options.
Hall was 4-for-10 from the field in the opening half, and 4 of 7 on 3-pointers, but took just one shot after halftime.
“I guess they realized that I can shoot so they played me tighter off screens,” Hall said.
The Dukes also got an early boost from their first sellout since Purdue visited in 1994, and their students stood throughout the first half cheering every positive play. But they sat down at halftime, and when the second half offered more Virginia dominance, slowly began filtering out to other Friday night activities.
The Cavaliers played without starting point guard London Perrantes and reserve swingman Evan Nolte as they both served suspensions for off-season team rules violations, but they didn’t need them. Redshirt freshman Devon Hall started in Perrantes’ place and had 5 points, two assists and five steals in 27 minutes.
Virginia led 51-33 by halftime and Bennett emptied his bench in the second half, giving Wilkins and other freshmen Marial Shaok and B.J. Stith extensive playing time.
Virginia: Center Mike Tobey started but fouled out after just 15 minutes. He had six points, six rebounds and three turnovers. … Anderson was 4-for-5 on 3-pointers. Asked if it was a continuation of what he’s been seeing from the streaky Anderson in practice, Bennett said, “Not particularly.” … Darion Atkins grabbed 10 rebounds.
James Madison: Hall was 4-for-7 on 3-pointers and the rest of the team was 4-for-19. … The Dukes had only nine assists and 18 turnovers.
LEG ROOM: Ralph Sampson, a Harrisonburg native and three-time national player of the year for the Cavaliers, was at the game. It was Virginia’s first visit to JMU since the 1982-83 season when Sampson and the top-ranked Cavaliers beat the Dukes 51-34. This time, the score was nearly identical — 51-33 — at halftime.
Virginia hosts Norfolk State on Sunday
James Madison hosts Radford on Monday.
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