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Nov. 28, 2003

Box Score|? Video Highlights

Associated Press Writer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.Elton Brown’s stats after the first half Friday were dismal: 2 points, no rebounds, 0-for-3 from the field.

Virginia Tech’s scrappy defense had done a good job containing the Virginia center, but Coach Pete Gillen told him at the break that’s the reason basketball has two halves.

Brown responded by exploding on offense in the second to finish with 16 points as the Cavaliers upended the Hokies in their annual in-state showdown 80-65.

Gary Forbes and Todd Billet also scored 16 points apiece to lead the Cavaliers (2-0), who avenged a surprising 73-55 loss to the Hokies last season. U.Va. had won the previous six games in the series.

After being held to two points on free throws in the first half, Brown scored nine points during a key three-minute stretch midway through the second half to help U.Va. open up a 66-50 lead with 7:18 left.

“In the first half, there were three guys on me and I was forcing the shot,” he said. “It’s the second game of the season and I’m still learning.”

Bryant Matthews tried to keep Virginia Tech (2-1) in the game down the stretch, scoring 14 of his team-high 21 points in the second half, but the Hokies could get no closer than 12 the rest of the way.

Matthews also finished with 15 rebounds.

Gillen called the win a big step toward regaining credibility after finishing last season a disappointing 16-16.

“We’re trying to build our team back up,” he said. “It was a great victory, certainly not pretty, but we played with emotion and showed some toughness in the second half.”

U.Va. took control of the game after the break, as Forbes scored seven of the team’s first eight points to make it 43-38 with 16:39 remaining. Billet’s jumper four minutes later capped a 14-2 U.Va. run that upped the lead to 54-40.

Virginia Tech, which has two seniors on its roster and no juniors, crumpled toward the end under a barrage of fouls and poorly executed shots. The Hokies had three players foul out – Philip McCandies, Jamon Gordon and Allen Calloway.

The Hokies were also without three players due to injuries, including veteran guard Carlos Dixon.

“We’ve got to toughen up and play a little harder,” coach Seth Greenberg said. “We’re not going to build a wall of excuses.”

Gordon scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Hokies, while McCandies had 11 points.

The Hokies came out on fire, leading by as many as seven points in the first half. McCandies had 11 of Virginia Tech’s first 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting, but didn’t score again before fouling out of the game with 7:18 left to play.

U.Va closed the gap on a 9-0 run capped by Forbes’ driving layup with 7:21 left in the half to take a 23-19 lead. The Cavaliers went on another 9-0 spurt to close the half ahead 35-30.

“There were three stretches that determined the basketball game, and I thought we got tired,” Greenberg said. “Some guys played a lot of minutes.”

Virginia had the deeper bench, going to reserves Majestic Mapp and Devin Smith to give the Cavaliers a spark in the second half. Mapp finished with six points and five assists, while Smith had five points and seven rebounds.

Billet also kept the Cavaliers alive in the first half, going 4-for-5 from behind the arc to score 11 of his 16.

But Gillen said he was most impressed with the way Brown turned around his game.

“He has to understand that everyone is going to come in here and try to be physical with him, try to beat him up,” Gillen said. “He’s got to make himself tougher to guard. He has to be more active, more difficult to defend.”

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