The Cavaliers did so many things well in Sunday’s 80-69 rout of Maryland, you almost wondered what to point to first. The Cavaliers outhustled the Terrapins, they shot great and won the rebound battle. It was generally a miserable experience for Maryland — only made worse by Anderson.
The All-Met selection from Montrose Christian scored 14 of his 17 points in the first half and finished with a game-high nine rebounds. Anderson expected a chilly reception in his first game at Comcast Center after he changed his mind and signed with Virginia, in large part, because former Terrapins coach Gary Williams retired.
Fans chanted, “Traitor.” They shouted, “We don’t need you!” Boos erupted whenever the ball found Anderson early in the game. The crowd’s energy level wasn’t as high in the second half. Virginia had a lot do with that.
Virginia’s six-point halftime lead increased to 13 with about 11 minutes to play. By that point, one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s hottest teams had silenced many. It was exactly the type of dominant performance the Cavaliers have been building toward lately.
Virginia (17-6, 7-3 ACC) has won six of its last seven. The only thing missing from the Cavaliers’ strong stretch was a solid road win (their recent blowout of awful Virginia Tech doesn’t qualify).
Maryland (17-7, 5-6) was downright horrible at times against Virginia — the Terrapins gave up way too many uncontested three-pointers — and isn’t among the ACC’s elite. Still, Coach Tony Bennett’s squad won in a hostile environment against an opponent that has shown signs of improvement recently. That’s a positive with March on the horizon and drawing closer every day.
Anderson’s development also should make Bennett smile. In five of the Cavaliers’ past six games, Anderson has scored in double figures. On Saturday, he caused major matchup headaches for Maryland.
Because of injuries and illness, Bennett started Anderson, listed at 6 feet 6, 226 pounds, at power forward. Anderson simply was too quick for Maryland’s big guys. He also enjoys doing the tough stuff inside, as evidenced by his top-notch rebounding work.
“He got us off to a good start,” Bennett said. “One of the reasons we rebounded well was that they didn’t always play their [regular post players]; they tried to match up with us offensively.
“When Justin had one of [Maryland’s power forwards or centers] on him, he really got free. He made some terrific plays. . . . I look at his rebounding line, those nine rebounds, we needed that.”
The Terrapins also were impressed with Anderson. And they should have been.
“He played an amazing game,” Maryland guard Nick Faust said. “He was hitting jump shots and attacking very strong.”