The Virginia Cavaliers wrapped up their appearance in the Preseason NIT with a 80-64 win over North Texas in Charlottesville Tuesday night. North Texas got as close as 9 points with under 13 minutes to play, but Virginia closed the game out strong to improve their record on the year to 4-2. Virginia had five players who scored in double figures tonight, led by Justin Anderson with 14, and Evan Nolte and Teven Jones both scored 13. Nolte had another impressive game, not missing going 5 for 5 on field goal attempts. Darion Atkins had a solid 12 point, 9 rebound performance, and Joe Harris pitched in 12 points as well.
After a strong start to the game and a 20-point halftime lead, Virginia struggled to start the second half, and that's when North Texas made their run. The Cavaliers struggled in the same areas they've had trouble with all year: turning the ball over and failure to break pressure. The Hoos had 15 turnovers, one more than North Texas finished with. Still, the Cavaliers were hot from deep (shooting 8-11 from 3 point land), and were once again proficient at the free throw line. UVa also kept North Texas' star player, NBA prospect Tony Mitchell, from having a dominating performance, holding him to 16 points.
The win over North Texas brings UVa's record in the early-season tournament to 3-1, with the lone loss coming last week at the hands of Delaware. That loss cost Virginia a chance to play in Madison Square Garden this week against some solid competition: Kansas State, Michigan and Pittsburgh. As a consolation, Virginia got two games against small schools from the Lone Star State. Since losing that game to Delaware though, the Hoos have played better, taking care of business against fairly weak competition. Still, the Cavaliers probably needed a boost in confidence, and in blowout wins over Lamar and North Texas this week should help provide that.
Much of the Cavaliers' early season struggles can be attributed to the lack of healthy point guards, and inability to beat pressure. The return of freshman guard Teven Jones from suspension and injury has really given Virginia a boost in the past three games, and Tony Bennett and company eagerly await the return of Jontel Evans. The senior point guard played sparingly against Delaware, but hasn't played at all since. Hopefully, he will be able to return soon, and help the Cavaliers considerably on both ends of the floor. Virginia is off for a full week, before traveling to Madison to take on Wisconsin as part of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge next Wednesday.