Virginia 72, No. 24 UAB 63

First-year Virginia coach Tony Bennett hopes an impressive

come-from-behind victory against a hot team and a big game from the

player he’s challenged to lift the Cavaliers will have a lasting

impact with conference play looming.

Sounds like it might.

“We’re getting more complete with the system he’s telling us,

defensive and offensive end,” reigning Atlantic Coast Conference

rookie of the year Sylven Landesberg said after one of his most

complete games in a 72-63 victory over No. 24 UAB on Wednesday

night.

“I think we’ll keep growing and getting better and pulling out

tough wins like this.”

It will help immensely if Landesberg plays like he did against

the Blazers.

Landesberg had 19 points and six rebounds and two of his four

assists created key baskets in the final 2:36 for the Cavaliers,

who went ahead and held on over the final 10 minutes.

The Cavaliers (7-4) beat a ranked opponent for the first time

since Clemson last February, ending UAB’s 10-game winning streak

and giving Bennett an affirming victory.

“It validates it a little bit,” he said of his defense-first

approach to winning.

UAB got within 61-59 in the closing minutes, but Landesberg fed

Mike Scott for an easy basket with 2:36 remaining, and then fed him

again for a baby hook with 1:21 to play after Howard Crawford

baseline jumper had pulled the Blazers within two again.

Landesberg’s two free throws with 49.6 seconds left all but

finished it, capping the kind of performance Bennett challenged him

to make a habit as the best player on the team.

“If he feels that I’m that good of a player to be able to raise

the level of play of my teammates as well as mine, I’m going to do

the best I can to do it,” Landesberg said.

“I felt like I played the whole game. I felt like I was finding

teammates, I was rebounding. At times I felt like I was a little

bit lazy on defense, but I feel like I played all right D. I’m

still working on that, but it felt like a pretty complete

game.”

The Blazers (11-2), who moved into the Top 25 this week for the

first time since the end of the 2006-07 season, got a career-high

27 points and 11 rebounds from Elijah Millsap. But the Blazers

missed 10 of 15 free throws and were outscored 22-13 over the final

10 minutes.

“That was bad, but we missed some that really hurt,” Blazers

coach Mike Davis said of the free throws. His team was 5 of 13 in

the second half. “We missed a couple that really hurt.”

Virginia limited the Blazers to 39 percent shooting after

halftime.

“They made it tough on us,” Davis said. “They contested some

shots and took away our driving lanes. … We fought hard in the

second half but just came up short.”

The Cavaliers trailed most of the game, but scored seven

straight points to tie it at 50 with 10:26 to play. Jerome

Meyinsse’s short jumper started the run, and Jontel Evans hit a

3-pointer with the shot clock running down and then a driving

left-handed layup to tie it.

The 3-pointer, Evans’ first of the season, was “a huge momentum

shot for us,” Bennett said.

After Ovie Soko’s basket gave the Blazers the lead back,

Mustapha Farrakhan hit his second 3-pointer and Sammy Zeglinski

added a four-point play with 7:17 remaining.

The Cavaliers never trailed again.

Scott and Farrakhan added 10 points each for the Cavaliers.

Crawford had 14 points for the Blazers.

The Cavaliers had no answer for the 6-foot-6 Millsap, who had 17

points and five rebounds in the first half. He already had eight

points inside when he made a 16-footer with 9:58 left in the first

half to make it 18-12. It was the Blazers’ first basket from

outside the paint, and Millsap later added their only 3-pointer in

7 first-half tries. They finished 2 of 14.

The Blazers dominated inside and led most of the first half, but

each time they seemed poised to take command, Virginia rallied. Two

free throws by Landesberg and a dunk by Meyinsse pulled them within

20-16 with 8:12 to play, and three points by Landesberg and a steal

and layup by Evans pulled them to 31-28 with 2:15 left. It was

35-30 at halftime.