CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Sixth-ranked Virginia entered its Thursday matchup with Cleveland State coming off of a 12-day exam break.
The Cavaliers shook off the rust and downed the Vikings 70-54 at John Paul Jones Arena in front of 11,812 fans.
“I think Cleveland State is a scrappy team, we talked about that,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “I thought we were good offensively tonight once we got going a little bit.”
Virginia improved to 10-0 on the season, its best start since the 2000-01 season.
The Cavaliers led by as many as 20 points in the second half before fighting off a pesky Vikings squad.
“For moments, I thought we played hard,” Cleveland State coach Gary Waters said. “We just weren’t accomplishing anything, and that’s credit to Virginia. Their defense is pretty strong and solid, and it’s hard to accomplish anything.”
Guards Justin Anderson and Malcolm Brogdon led the Cavaliers with 16 points apiece. Anderson added five rebounds and three assists. Virginia forward Anthony Gill scored 13 points and pulled down a game-high eight rebounds.
“There was a good balance (offensively),” Bennett said. “I liked the way we shared the ball, (as) the assist-to-turnover ratio showed, and I liked that.”
Virginia rebounded after a tough start from the field and shot 50 percent for the game. The Cavaliers recorded 14 assists on 22 made field goals.
Cleveland State (5-6) shot just 37.7 percent on the night as it relied heavily on the 3-point shot. The Vikings knocked down seven of their 23 attempts from beyond the arc, 30.4 percent.
“We didn’t guard the ball well in the second half, and that was a little concerning,” Bennett said. “I knew (Cleveland State would) just keep coming at you. We were up 20, and then we took our foot off of the gas and they score seven quick points.”
Guard Trey Lewis led the Vikings with a game-high 18 points. He was the only Cleveland State player to score in double figures.
Virginia went 21-for-28 from the free-throw line, while Cleveland State attempted just nine free throws for the game, making seven of them.
Both teams failed to play their best basketball during the first 20 minutes, but Virginia held a 31-18 lead at the break.
After a sluggish start from the field, the Cavaliers rebounded to shoot 40 percent in the opening half while Cleveland State was held to 27 percent shooting. Twelve of the Vikings’ 18 points came from the 3-point arc, as they knocked down four of 14 first-half attempts.
“We haven’t shot the ball well all year,” Waters said. “I didn’t expect a major change tonight, and (the Cavaliers) are a good team. It’s good to play a team like that.”
The Cavaliers used a 10-0 run to take a 16-4 lead with 6:43 to play in the half before Cleveland State used back-to-back 3-pointers to gain some momentum.
Brogdon and Gill scored 12 first-half points apiece for the Cavaliers.
NOTES: Virginia, which played at home for the first time since Nov. 25, ran its home winning streak to 16 games. … The Cavaliers entered Thursday ranked first in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 47.4 points per game. … Cleveland State G Trey Lewis just missed matching his team-high average of 19 points per game. … Virginia plays host to Harvard on Sunday. … Cleveland State returns home to play San Francisco on Sunday.
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