CHARLOTTESVILLE ——Virginia's players refer to it as "touching the paint" — getting into the lane and driving to the basket, or passing the ball to open shooters on the perimeter. Either way, they believe good things will happen.
No arguing with that m.o. Saturday, when the Cavaliers' 3-point shooting barrage fueled a 72-64 win against Georgia Tech that wasn't as close as the final score.
"When we run our offense, we just try to get some cuts, get some screens," senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan said. "When you see a lane open up, you just try to touch the paint and if nobody steps up, you go all the way, or if they help over, you make the next pass.
"We've got good enough shooters so when they're down and ready on the catch, that's a good shot for our team."
The Cavaliers (11-8, 2-3 ACC) snapped a three-game losing streak, all three to upper-tier teams in the conference — Boston College, Duke and North Carolina — and all games in which they had leads and chances to win.
"We were kind of feeling bad that we lost those three because we felt like we were in all of those games," Farrakhan said. "We just put an emphasis on finishing, finishing off the game, so we're pretty happy."
Farrakhan led all scorers with 23 points, and freshmen KT Harrell and Joe Harris combined for 28 points as the Cavs employed a four-guard lineup much of the game. They made 10 of 15 shots from 3-point range and held a double-figure lead for all but the final seconds of the last 22 minutes.
"I think we were sloppy at the very end, and I think we left a lot of points on the table," Cavs coach Tony Bennett said. "Whether it was finishing layups or not making free throws, that would have made it a little different.
"But they played longer, withstood a little dry spell in the second half, and we got looks. I thought there were stretches of real good basketball, where the floor was spaced, we got nice rhythm and defended OK. I didn't think it was a great defensive performance, but I thought it was solid."
Georgia Tech's (9-9, 2-3 ACC) conference wins and losses have featured diametrically opposite shooting performances by opponents.
North Carolina and Wake Forest shot less than 28 percent from the field in a pair of wins. Boston College and Clemson each shot better than 55 percent from the field in losses, with the Tigers hitting an astonishing 85 percent and all nine of their 3-pointers in the second half.
On Saturday, the Cavaliers hit 7 of 8 shots from 3-point range in the first half and made two-thirds of their shots overall on the way to a 14-point halftime lead. For most of the game, the Cavs shot a better percentage from 3-point range than overall or from the free-throw line.
"If they see Georgia Tech on the shirt, it's going in," Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt joked afterward. "I thought about it on the way to the locker room at halftime. You could put teams in the gym by themselves and they won't hit 7 of 8. But you have to be prepared to stop them, rather than hope they don't go in."
Virginia had assists on 16 of its 20 field goals, and five players logged assists, led by Farrakhan and Jontel Evans with five apiece.
"I want them to take good rhythm shots," Bennett said. "We're trying to get paint-touches off the dribble and make the next pass. When feet are set and hands are ready, and a ball is kicked out, you've got to take that.
"When teams are going to pressure you or extend and get into you, you have to use the dribble. Then we say to make the next pass. I thought we did that well and the guys got a little rhythm."
Defensively, the Cavs made Yellow Jackets leading scorer Iman Shumpert work for his 19 points and limited Glen Rice Jr., to five points on 2-for-11 shooting.
Virginia's defense dictated tempo and its offense created open shots and forced Georgia Tech to chase. It was the fourth time this season the Cavs have made at least 10 3-pointers.
"Shooting's a funny thing," Bennett said. "You keep shooting as long as they're good shots and don't get too discouraged when they're not going in. When they are, you just keep letting them fly."