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Nov. 16, 2013

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The bus carrying the UVa men’s basketball team was pulling away from Time Warner Cable Arena when it suddenly stopped Saturday afternoon. On the sidewalk next to the bus stood a young couple, the female half of which held a vintage Charlotte Hornets jersey with BENNETT on the back.

Off the bus came Tony Bennett, who obliged the fans by autographing the jersey, and then the Cavaliers continued on their way.

They haven’t forgotten Bennett in Charlotte, and he hasn’t forgotten the city where he spent a memorable chapter of his life.

“It’s where I met my wife, where I had my NBA career. I like Charlotte,” Bennett said, smiling.

He’s now in his fifth season as head coach at Virginia, and his team is ranked No. 25 nationally. The Cavaliers showed again Saturday that they have much work to do, but they had too much firepower for a physically overmatched Davidson team. UVa dominated the second half and won 70-57 before 5,216 fans at the home of the NBA’s Bobcats.

Virginia (2-1) exploited its size advantage inside, outscoring the Wildcats 36-8 in the paint.

On an afternoon when All-ACC guard Joe Harris scored only one point — he made 1 of 2 free throws with 35 seconds left — several other Cavaliers had notable games. Sophomore center Mike Tobey hit 8 of 11 shots from the floor and finished with a game-high 18 points. Redshirt sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon scored a career-high 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting, and sophomore swingman Justin Anderson contributed 12 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.

Senior big man Akil Mitchell, back in his hometown, turned the ball over six times, his high in a college game, but he bounced back from a scoreless first half to finish with 11 points and nine boards.

“I’ll admit, I was kind of nervous coming in, playing in front of so many family and friends,” said Mitchell, who like UVa teammate Anthony Gill graduated from Charlotte Christian.

“And to play in the Bobcats arena, the intensity gets a little too high. I was a little nervous in the first half, but I settled in and tried to lead the team as best as possible.”

Nerves weren’t a problem for freshman point guard London Perrantes. In his first start as a Cavalier, Perrantes had five points, five assists and no turnovers in a team-high 32 minutes.

“He doesn’t get sped up,” Bennett said. “Even against VCU’s press and pressure, he’s hard to speed up. He has that calm demeanor and poise that you like. So that’s important for us.”

Perrantes said: “That’s what a point guard’s supposed to do: not turn the ball over, but attack and get people open and get people involved. I know that we could have got Joey involved a little bit more, but they were keying on him, as most teams will be, and I was happy other people stepped up.”

With Perrantes capably handling the point, the 6-5 Brogdon was able to move back to shooting guard, the position at which he spent most of his time as a freshman in 2011-12. (Brogdon missed last season while recovering from a foot injury.)

“I liked it,” Bennett said. “I thought they worked well together … I thought that helped Malcolm out, and they’re both pretty complete.”

Brogdon is “a scorer at heart,” Perrantes said, “and to able to push him over to [shooting guard] and be able to run the team, it takes some [pressure] off him so he can go and do other things, like scoring, and you saw that today.”

Perrantes’ final assist came after Davidson (0-3) cut Virginia’s lead, 16 at the 6:00 mark, to nine with 2:54 remaining. The Wahoos spread the court, and Perrantes dribbled through the Wildcats’ defense and whipped a slick pass to the 6-11 Tobey, who scored easily inside.

“I really love playing with London,” Tobey said. “He’s a great passer. Especially on that last pass. That was a great pass. We didn’t really have that last year, so it’s a great addition.”

The `Hoos turned the ball over three times before they attempted their first shot Saturday. They settled down enough to open up a 24-13 lead with six minutes left in the first half, but the Wildcats got back in the game with 3-point shooting.

In the first half, UVa outrebounded Davidson 22-11 and shot 54.2 percent from the floor. Yet the Cavaliers’ lead was only 29-27 at the break, in part because of their sloppy ball handling — Harris, Mitchell and Gill had three first-half turnovers apiece — and in part because of Davidson’s torrid outside shooting.

Led by guard Brian Sullivan, who had three treys, the Wildcats made 7 of 17 shots from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes. Sullivan, a transfer from Miami-Ohio, visited UVa and worked out at John Paul Jones Arena last year before landing at Davidson.

“It’s a flash back. It’s like déjà vu,” Mitchell said. “The kid can shoot, and he lit us up today. He’s a good player, and he’ll have a good career.”

Mitchell opened the second-half scoring with a jump hook that made it 31-27, but at the other end a sequence that included two offensive rebounds ended with another Davidson trey, and just like that it was a one-point game.

Bennett, livid, called a timeout with 19:00 to play.

“We talked [at halftime] about setting the tone, and I didn’t like what I saw,” Bennett told reporters after the game. “If that’s how it’s going to be, it’s going to be a long afternoon. And I just challenged them and said, `That’s enough. Let me see you scrap.’

“Whether it mattered or not, I was ticked, and they needed to hear it, and they needed to respond, and for the most part I think we did.”

The Cavaliers scored the next 12 points. Davidson refused to fold, though, and with 3:36 to play De’Mon Brooks scored inside to make it 55-46.

Bennett wasn’t surprised by the Wildcats’ resolve.

“That is college basketball,” Bennett said. “I say this all the time: If you don’t give everything you got, especially when you go away from home, just because we’re from the ACC and they’re not, if you’re not ready, you’re going to find yourself in trouble.

“People are going to say, `Oh, they beat Davidson.’ We had to work, and I knew we would.”

In its previous game, UVa had collapsed late, allowing No. 14 VCU to rally for a 59-56 victory at JPJ. There was no such drama in the final minutes Saturday, thanks in part to a trey by Anderson that made it 58-46 with 3:12 left.

“That was a big 3,” Bennett said.

The 6-6 Anderson started Virginia’s final 14 games in 2012-13 and its first two this season. He was ineffective against JMU and VCU, though, and that made it easier for Bennett to shake up the starting lineup.

“You’re going to have games like that,” Anderson said. “You just gotta make sure you’re there for your teammates. That’s the time when you [have to] be a teammate. You don’t put your head down and try to worry about your own game.”

The Justin Anderson who sparkled late last season returned against Davidson. He went 4 for 4 from the line and 2 for 3 from beyond the 3-point arc. He rebounded with gusto.

“And they were above-the-rim rebounds,” Bennett said. “He was really going to get it. He was one of the guys who was just kind of soaring above everybody and snatching `em.”

In his new role Saturday, Anderson said, he tried to provide “a little bit of energy off the bench. Like I said and like I always will say, I’ll do whatever it takes for this team to win. If that’s coming off the bench, if that’s starting, whatever, because I love these guys so much and I love our coaching staff.”

After grabbing a career-high nine rebounds in the first half against VCU, Tobey played only one minute after intermission Tuesday night. Tobey’s foul trouble was one reason, and Bennett thought Mitchell and 6-8 Darion Atkins matched up better when the Rams went with a small lineup.

“I probably should have played him more [against VCU],” Bennett acknowledged Saturday, and Tobey capitalized on his opportunities against Davidson.

He played 12 minutes in the first half and 14 in the second and was all but unstoppable inside for most of the game.

“I was excited to see him take another step,” Bennett said.

OUT OF CHARACTER: Harris, a 6-6 senior, came into the game as the Cavaliers’ leading scorer (11.5 ppg). But he attempted only four field goals in his 30 minutes Saturday. He was 1 for 2 from the line.

“They did a good job defensively on Joe, but I don’t care how good of a job they do, him scoring one point is probably more the exception than the norm,” Bennett said.

“He’s gotta keep working to get open, to get good looks, to try to impact the game in other ways. If you just say, `Well, I gotta be aggressive,’ and you’re a bull in a china shop, that’s not the answer. You gotta be assertive with control. You gotta still let it come, but you can’t become passive. So he’s finding that niche.”

UP NEXT: At 7 p.m. Tuesday, UVa (2-1) hosts Navy (2-2) at John Paul Jones Arena. Navy won 68-50 at Binghamton on Saturday afternoon.

In the Patriot League’s preseason poll, the Midshipmen were picked to finish 10th in the conference.

UVa and Navy haven’t met in men’s basketball since Feb. 16, 1974. The Cavaliers have won the past six games in a series that dates to 1910. Overall, the Midshipmen lead 31-13.

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