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December 5, 2012Virginia coach Tony Bennett knows exactly how his Tennessee counterpart, Cuonzo Martin, is feeling.
Akil Mitchell had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Joe Harris also scored 13 Wednesday night as the Cavaliers beat offensively challenged Tennessee in a battle of stout defenses, 46-38.
"Your defense can only hang in there for so long when you're struggling to score," Bennett said. "That puts a lot of pressure on. We've been there and we were there for stretches tonight."
The victory was the sixth in a row for the Cavaliers (7-2), who limited the Vols to 28.8 percent shooting and just 15 field goals. Tennessee's point total was just two more that it scored in its last game, a one-point loss to No. 15 Georgetown.
In a game where the premium was on scoring, Virginia came up with the biggest play.
The Cavaliers had been held scoreless for more than six minutes - the fourth time this season the Vols have done that to an opponent - and seen their once-15-point lead trimmed to 38-33 when Bennett called a timeout. They also were without point guard Jontel Evans, who returned to the locker room after aggravating a foot injury that has plagued him all season.
After the break, Harris fed Mitchell down low for a short bank that pushed the Cavaliers' lead back to 40-33.
"It was huge because when Jontel is out, we kind of struggle to get into the paint a little bit," Mitchell said. "I had trouble finishing today. I left probably eight or nine points on the board. I was just relieved to see that one go down."
So was Harris.
"They're very physical. They weren't allowing anything easy, especially late in the game. It was just a fight," he said.
Trae Golden scored 11 to lead Tennessee (4-3), which finished 15 for 52 from the field (28.8 percent). Vols scoring leader Jarnell Stokes was blanketed by Darion Atkins and Mitchell all game and finished with just five points, eight below his average.
"It's tough as a coach," Martin said. "We have to shoot the ball with confidence but we've also got to find better ways to get the ball inside to Jarnell."
The Vols picked up where they left off Friday against Georgetown, scoring just six points in the first 14:50 of the game, and just five more after using a 12-2 run to get within 38-33 with 7:41 left. Golden and Skylar McBee hit 3-pointers in the burst, and Kenny Hall made it 38-33 with two free throws, but Tennessee scored just one point over the next 6:14.
Trailing 40-33, a free-throw by Stokes made it a two-possession game with 3:03 left, but Harris scored inside for Virginia, and neither team scored again until a Jordan McRae dunk for the Vols with 1:27 to play. After Harris missed the front end of a one-and-one for the Cavaliers, Stokes' putback made it 42-38 with 36.5 seconds left, but the Vols fouled freshman guard Teven Jones, who had missed all four of his field goal attempts, but he made both halves of a one-and-one to clinch it.
The Vols scored the first five points after halftime to pull within 25-21, but consecutive layups by Evans, Virginia's first 3-pointer of the night from Harris and Mitchell's putback restored the margin to 34-21.
The Cavs added two more on an inbounds play when the Vols lost track of Harris, and Evans fed him right in front of the basket for an uncontested lay-in, making it 36-21.
Virginia led 25-16 at halftime, and that was after the Vols outscored them 10-4 over the final 5:10.
Mitchell had seven of his nine first-half points during a 19-4 burst that took more than 10 minutes and gave Virginia a 21-6 lead. Three dunks by Hall sparked the Vols run to close the half.