Mike Scott scored a career-high 33 points and No. 24 Virginia held off a second-half rally by Seattle for an 83-77 victory Wednesday night.
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 8-point first-half lead, then built their own 14-point advantage with less than 9 minutes remaining before being forced to hold off the Redhawks' furious rally in the closing moments.
It was the return to the state of Washington for Virginia coach Tony 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 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.
Aaron Broussard had 29 points for the Redhawks, who have lost six straight.
Harris had 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon added 10, mostly on free throws. Virginia outscored Seattle 27-11 at the free throw line, but the Cavaliers were only around to rally in the second half because of Scott's performance in the first 20 minutes.
While Seattle was tearing apart the Cavaliers' defense and shooting 57.7 percent in the first half, Scott was doing everything he could from turning the backend of Virginia's two-game, Northwest road trip into an early blowout. Scott made 9 of 11 shots in the first half and 12 of 14 for the game. He had 14 rebounds.
Sterling Carter scored 17 points, most of them coming in Seattle's late rally.
It appeared Virginia was on its way to an easy victory after Seattle's sluggish second-half start. Seattle missed eight of its first nine shots to begin the 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.
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. Broussard 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, Sammy 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.
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 3 hours east of Seattle made the trek over the Cascade mountains to see Harris, many sporting his No. 12 Cavaliers jersey.
Follow Tim Booth on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ByTimBooth