BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — So often this season, when No. 2 Virginia has needed a lift, it has come from Justin Anderson.
The junior guard provided a huge one Sunday, this time with an assist from coach Tony Bennett, and led the Cavaliers on a critical 12-0 run late in the game to give them a 50-47 victory at inspired Virginia Tech and sold-out Cassell Coliseum.
“I think he understood it was time,” forward Anthony Gill said of Anderson, who scored eight points in the run. It was time to go ahead and pick it up and that’s what he did. He really carried us in those last couple minutes.”
Anderson started the burst with a 3-pointer, then Bennett went with a call that he hoped might light a fire.
“Justin’s been begging me for three years, ‘When are you going to put a lob in for me, coach? When are you going to put in a lob?” Bennett said, laughing. ” … I’m glad we put it in because it was well-timed.”
Anderson gathered London Perrantes’ pass and dunked, tying the game at 45 and giving the Virginia fans in the building renewed hope, and he then put them ahead to stay with another 3-pointer. Gill capped the 12-0 burst with a tough stickback.
“When he said we were going to run it, I was just ready to go up there and get it,” Anderson said of the lob play.
It pulled Virginia out of a hole the Cavaliers hadn’t seen before this season.
The Cavaliers (19-0, 7-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed 43-33 after the Hokies outscored them 30-9 in a long stretch spanning the halves. It included a drought of 9:14 between the Cavaliers’ first basket of the second half — a 3-pointer by Brogdon — and its next points — a 3-pointer by Perrantes — the latter pulling them within 43-36 with 10:20 remaining.
After Christian Beyer’s inside basket for the Hokies (8-11, 0-6), Anderson made a 3-pointer from the left corner.
“We just needed the seal to be broken, as we say,” Bennett said. Virginia shot just 34.7 percent (17-for-49).
Darion Atkins followed with two free throws, Anderson scored on a game-tying alley-oop dunk on a pass from London Perrantes and then made another 3-pointer, giving Virginia back the lead at 48-45.
The Hokies, playing their third consecutive game without scoring leader Justin Bibbs because of a concussion, weren’t lacking for playmakers. Ahmed Hill scored with 1:06 to play for the Hokies, but missed a free throw that resulted from the play. Atkins kept the Hokies in it by missing a free throw with 12.8 seconds left, but Adam Smith’s long 3-pointer spun around the inside of the rim and then popped back out as time expired.
“I thought it was in.” said Smith, whose 15 points led the Hokies. “I thought we were going to overtime.”
That they didn’t, but lost instead, was of no consolation to first-year coach Buzz Williams.
“You don’t play for all that. That’s the truth. I’m not trying to be silly,” Williams said. “If we’re supposed to be applauded for playing hard, I think you can do that over at the Blacksburg Rec (Recreation Center). It has to be more than that.”
LAST TIME THEY MET:
Anderson and Joe Harris made consecutive 3s to spark Virginia’s rally for an 11-point, second-half deficit on its way to a 557-53 victory.
Virginia: Anderson scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half. … The Cavaliers were 6 for 22 (27.3 percent) in the second half.
Virginia Tech: Sunday’s game completed a string of four consecutive games against teams in the top 15 for the Hokies. The streak started at No. 10 Louisville and No. 15 North Carolina and included a Thursday night visit from No. 8 Notre Dame before the game against the Cavaliers.
Virginia plays Duke next Saturday at John Paul Jones Arena.
The Hokies host Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
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