CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- 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.
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.