U.Va. keeps pace with Syracuse, Pitt atop ACC

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Even with a 23-point halftime lead, Cavaliers coach says team defended well throughout.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Newcomers Syracuse and Pittsburgh have wasted no time making themselves at home in the upscale, gated community known as ACC basketball. Indeed, the Orange and Panthers have raided the fridge, commandeered the remote and propped their feet on the coffee table.

At least one longtime conference resident appears determined to fight back.


The Cavaliers joined Syracuse and Pitt atop the early ACC standings at 3-0 Saturday night with a 76-45 rout of North Carolina State.

Virginia's most lopsided road win in this series, which dates to 1913, was built on a nearly flawless first half in which the Cavaliers led by as many as 25 points, committed only three turnovers and nearly doubled the Wolfpack on the glass (16-9).

You need not search long for Virginia's last 3-0 ACC start. It was 2010, Tony Bennett's first season as the Cavaliers' coach.

That team swooned soon thereafter, finishing 5-11 in the league. This bunch will not. Too much talent. Too much depth.

In fact, this is the first Virginia team to win each of its first three ACC games by double-digit margins.

“I like what I'm seeing in this stretch,” the ever-understated Bennett said.

Virginia's start was stunningly and ruthlessly efficient.

In bolting to a 30-9 lead, the Cavaliers scored on 15 of their first 17 possessions. They did not commit a turnover until 13-plus minutes had transpired, when officials whistled Anthony Gill for a questionable charge.

The first-half tour de force included a 15-0 binge, Joe Harris 3-pointer with the shot clock about to expire, and an Akil Mitchell windmill dunk in transition off a Ralston Turner turnover.

So balanced was Virginia that five players — Mitchell, Harris, Mike Tobey, Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes — outscored T.J. Warren in the first half. The ACC's leading scorer, Warren managed only four points on 1-of-5 shooting in the period.

The Cavaliers' offense wasn't nearly as impressive during the second half – how could it have been? – but much to Bennett's approval, their defense was.

“We were pretty locked in defensively,” he said.

Virginia defended best against the Wolfpack's best, limiting Warren and Anthony Barber to a combined seven points on 2-of-15 shooting. Credit Harris, Brogdon, Justin Anderson and Perrantes for those efforts.

A freshman point guard from Hampton High, Barber started for the 12th time in 16 games. Despite a concussion that sidelined him for a portion of preseason practice, he's emerged as State's assist leader and No. 2 scorer at 11.7 points per game.

As since his Hampton days, the overriding question about Barber is his shooting range. On a squad that doesn't shoot well from beyond the 3-point arc, he fits in seamlessly, shooting 29.6 percent from deep.

Barber and Perrantes presented an interesting contrast in rookie guards.

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