SEATTLE -- Virginia's return to the Top 25 got tested much quicker than expected.
And in some ways, Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett didn't mind how it all played out.
"You've got to be able to handle adversity. We didn't do a great job with it but there is a point as a coach where you try and say 'We've got to get some stops, we've got to take care of the ball, we've got to come together' and either it's going to happen or it's not," Bennett said.
It did come together for the Cavaliers, but just barely.
Playing its first game as a ranked team in more than four seasons, the Cavaliers (10-1) watched Seattle (2-8) shoot its way to an eight-point first-half lead, then built their own 14-point advantage with less than nine minutes remaining before being forced to hold off the Redhawks' furious rally in the closing moments.
The Cavaliers won their eighth straight and improved to 10-1 for the first time since 2000-01. They also avenged a shocking 59-53 home loss to Seattle last season.
They were able to hold on thanks to a key 3-pointer by Sammy Zelinski, clutch free throw shooting from freshman Malcolm Brogdon and a monster first half from Scott that kept the Cavaliers close enough to rally.
"I was playing with a lot of confidence. My teammates got me the ball and I was actually finishing around the rim, finished some shots finally for once," Scott said.
It was the return to the state of Washington for Bennett, who previously coached at Washington State before taking the Cavaliers job. It was also a homecoming for Virginia guard Joe Harris, who grew up about 175 miles east of Seattle and was largely the reason behind Virginia scheduling a home-and-home series with the Redhawks.
The night became far less about homecomings and more about simply getting a victory.
Virginia was on its way to an easy victory after Seattle missed eight of its first nine shots to begin the second half. Scott's three-point play pulled the Cavaliers within 43-42 and Harris gave Virginia its first lead on a baseline leaner with 15:12 remaining.
The Cavaliers' lead continued to grow until Seattle coach Cameron Dollar finally snapped with 8:45 left when he walked out to midcourt yelling about Scott's rebound putback while being fouled and was quickly issued a technical foul. Scott converted one of the two free throws for the technical, then completed the three-point play to give Virginia a 14-point lead with 8:45 remaining.
The technical woke up the Redhawks and instead of Virginia coasting to an easy road win they started crumbling under Seattle's pressure.
"I feel like we panicked a little bit. I feel like we could have been more sure with the ball," Brogdon said.
Using an aggressive, trapping defense, Seattle scored 19 of the next 23 points following Dollar's technical, the only Virginia points coming on free throws from Harris and Brogdon.
Aaron Broussard, who led Seattle with 29 points, scored nine points and Carter had eight as Seattle went back in front on Broussard's leaner with 3:29 left to take a 68-67 lead.
After a quick Virginia timeout, came the clutch plays Virginia needed. Zeglinski hit an open 3 to retake the lead, the Cavaliers first field goal in more than 5 minutes, and he added two free throws to push the lead to 72-68.
Brodgon hit four straight free throws sandwiched around Carter's 3-pointer and Broussard hit another 3 to cut the lead to 76-75 with 1:24 left. Assane Sene missed two free throws, but Clarence Trent's hook shot in the lane failed to draw rim. Brogdon added two free throws with 1:05 left and the lead was three.
Broussard failed to connect on either of two free throws, but got his own rebound and scored, only to see Virginia break Seattle's press and lead to an easy basket for Scott and an 80-77 lead with 40 seconds left. T.J. Diop missed an open jumper for Seattle and Scott hit two free throws with 33.1 seconds left. Seattle failed to get a clean look in the final 30 seconds.
Carter added 17 points for Seattle, which dropped its sixth straight, but became the first team to score more than 60 points on Virginia this season.
"It's good to have energy and enthusiasm and have a display like this as you're doing it, because it helps you keep going and gives you a little more buzz to keep going," Dollar said. "But it doesn't stop the fact that you've got to keep going."
Harris' return was the attraction for many of the 3,541 in attendance. The Chelan, Wash., native originally committed to play for Bennett at Washington State before he left to take the job at Virginia. More than 300 residents of the small town about three hours east of Seattle made the trek over the Cascade mountains to see Harris, many sporting his No. 12 Cavaliers jersey.
|Mike Scott scores a career-high 33 points to help Virginia avoid an upset against Seattle. (Getty Images)|
|Virginia #24 (10-1) «||36||47||83|
|VA:M. Scott 33 Pts
VA:M. Scott 14 Reb
VA:S. Zeglinski 3 Ast
|SEAT:A. Broussard 29 Pts
SEAT:A. Broussard 8 Reb
SEAT:C. Burrell 6 Ast
|PLAYERS OF THE GAME|
|M. Scott, F||37||12-14||9-11||14||2||2||33|
|S. Zeglinski, G||37||3-5||2-2||3||3||3||11|
|J. Harris, G||33||4-8||5-6||1||2||4||14|
|J. Evans, G||29||4-7||0-0||2||2||3||8|
|A. Sene, C||18||1-2||1-6||3||0||2||3|
|M. Brogdon, G||18||1-5||8-9||0||3||2||10|
|A. Mitchell, F||13||0-0||1-2||0||0||1||1|
|D. Atkins, F||8||1-3||1-2||3||0||0||3|
|K. Harrell, G||7||0-3||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|J. Johnson, F||Did Not Play|
|T. Rogers, G||Did Not Play|
|D. Browman, G||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|A. Broussard, F||31||12-17||4-8||8||0||2||29|
|C. Trent, F||28||4-13||2-2||3||0||3||12|
|S. Carter, G||26||6-16||1-1||6||1||4||17|
|P. Obasi, G||18||0-0||0-0||1||1||3||0|
|E. Wallace, G-F||16||1-4||2-2||4||0||5||4|
|C. Burrell, G||26||2-4||2-2||2||6||1||6|
|C. Rasmussen, F||18||1-3||0-0||2||1||0||3|
|A. Tate, G||12||1-1||0-0||1||0||5||2|
|T. Diop, F||11||1-2||0-0||1||2||2||2|
|L. Green, C||9||1-2||0-0||1||0||0||2|
|G. Gilmore, F||3||0-1||0-0||0||0||4||0|
|J. Flora, G||2||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|O. Hurt, F||Did Not Play|
|D. Sunderhaus, F||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|