Virginia drew on its advantages in size and depth as well as a locker room tirade by Coach Terry Holland to subdue Penn, 60-50, tonight before 4,661 at the Palestra.
The Cavaliers hit four of their first five shots, taking a 9-2 lead before Penn called time out. Virginia extended its lead to 15-2 after a technical against Penn Coach Craig Littlepage resulted in two free throws and a basket on the ensuing possession.
The lead stayed at 13 until just over seven minutes remained in the first half. With the Cavaliers leading, 26-13, a basket by Penn forward Rick Maloney (who finished with a team-high 14 points) started a string of 17 consecutive points that gave the Quakers a 30-26 lead with 1:17 left in the half. A short jumper by Tim Mullen cut Penn's lead to 30-28 at halftime.
During the intermission, Holland let loose. The explosion, although detonated by the Cavaliers' first-half play, might have found its fuse during Virginia's recent Atlantic Coast Conference losses to Duke, North Carolina State and North Carolina.
"I've tried to be patient with the team," Holland said, "but you can only be so patient."
Virginia (8-7) started the second half slowly. Consecutive offensive rebounds by Dan Merrifield and Darrick Simms resulted in three free throws. Forward Mel Kennedy (11 points) then hit five straight points to give the Cavaliers a 39-37 lead at 12:42, a lead they never relinquished.
Olden Polynice who led Virginia with 15 points, sank two free throws to boost the lead to 48-41 with 6:56 to go. Penn (2-9) cut the deficit to three with 4:08 left but came no closer as Polynice and Kennedy each hit two free throws near the end.