CHARLOTTESVILLE — Superior talent and depth virtually assured a Virginia scoring binge or three Tuesday night against Hampton. What the Pirates could not afford was to extend those benders with their own mistakes.
Cue the midpoint of the opening half. Hampton had scored six consecutive points to tie the game, was shooting 50 percent from the field and, thanks to point guard Deron Powers' quickness and Emmanuel Okoroba's strength, was attacking the Cavaliers' interior.
But with a suddenness and ruthlessness befitting a team with national aspirations, Virginia promptly buried the Pirates with efficient offense and dominant defense.
The final count at John Paul Jones Arena was 69-40 and could have been far worse.
"I don't want to take any credit away from Virginia," Hampton coach Buck Joyner said. "They're a heck of a defensive team. … But I thought that we lost our legs. I saw travel hit us. … I thought we gave everything we had for that first 12 minutes, and then it looked like we bottomed out."
Tuesday was the Pirates' third road game in a week — the others were at Quinnipiac (Conn.) and Missouri State — and they fueled the Cavaliers' run with rushed shots and repeated turnovers.
Hampton (2-4) arrived shooting 42.8 percent, poor accuracy that figured to dip further against the Cavaliers' physical man-to-man. But when Powers assisted on Dionte Adams' baseline jumper with 9:56 remaining in the first half, the score was tied at 16, and the Pirates had made 8-of-16 shots.
Over the next 17-plus minutes, they made one meager field goal during a 34-3 run that gave Virginia a 50-19 lead. They trailed by as many as 36 points and shot a season-low 32.7 percent.
"Early the quickness that Powers showed beating us off ball screens … we were a step behind, we were stretched and they got right to the rim, and that concerned me," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "Then I thought we adjusted."
Bennett helped the Cavaliers adjust by switching 6-foot-6 Justin Anderson onto the 5-11 Powers. Anderson's length bothered not only Powers' shooting — he missed his final nine attempts after making his first three — but also his ballhanding.
"They made a great switch," Joyner said.
"He's what we call a roadblock," Bennett said of Anderson. "When he gets low and wide and he's engaged, he's hard to get around, and I thought that certainly helped us."
Virginia (5-1) scored 23 consecutive points during one stretch of the first half and made 8-of-12 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc. Small sample size granted, but the Cavaliers entered the game next-to-last in the ACC in 3-point shooting, making 28.8 percent, well off last season's 38.5.
Most encouraging to Bennett: All-ACC wing Joe Harris continued to emerge from an early-season funk by making all four of his 3-pointers and scoring a game-high 20 points.
"He had great rhythm and was letting it fly," Bennett said. "It seems like he's getting his timing back."
Most encouraging to Joyner: Reserve forward Dwight Meikle was fearless inside, contributing 12 points, six blocked shots, four rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes.
Virginia is 21-0 all-time versus Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponents and 7-0 against Hampton, but Bennett and the Cavaliers were under no illusions that a half-baked effort would suffice.
They know that the MEAC's North Carolina Central won at North Carolina State earlier this month. They recall two years ago, when 15th-seeded Norfolk State upended second-seeded Missouri in the NCAA tournament.
"Once we settled in," Bennett said, "I thought we were better."
Tuesday's game was part of the Corpus Christi Challenge, and both teams head to Texas for games Friday and Saturday. Virginia next plays Southern Methodist, while Hampton challenges Liberty.
Since encouraging victories over William and Mary and St. Peter's to open the season, Hampton has dropped consecutive games to Delaware, Quinnipiac, Missouri State and Virginia.
"When we fly out tomorrow morning, we're going to rest for two days," Joyner said.
And stress the positives from Tuesday.
"Deron Powers and Emmanuel Okoroba started off, they were pretty much unstoppable," Joyner said. "It looked like if they could keep going that way, we could make a game of this tonight."
Hampton's challenge is to find the depth and stamina to sustain that quality of play.