Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Villanova, Michigan winners to open Legends Classic

VCU hoists up a three. Photo by Jason Schott.
By Jason Schott  of BrooklynFans.com - Daly Dose of Hoops Contributor - @JESchott19

Villanova beat VCU with a strong second half performance and Michigan outlasted Oregon on Monday night in the opening of the Progressive Legends Classic at Barclays Center. On Tuesday night, VCU will meet Oregon at 7:30 in the Consolation Game, followed by Villanova and Michigan in the Championship Game at 10:00 pm.

The first half was a very intense, tight affair, and Villanova took a 32-30 lead into halftime. VCU scored the first six points of the second half to take a 36-32 lead at the 18:41 mark. Villanova responded with a mammoth 16-0 run, with Darrun Hilliard scoring 5 points in the span and it was capped by a Josh Hart three-point play at the 16:18 mark that made it 48-36.

Villanova kept it up and took a 16-point lead when Kris Jenkins, who was fouled on a three-point attempt, made three free throws to make it 57-41 at the 13:18 mark. They expanded that lead to 20, at 69-49, on a Hilliard three with 6:25 left, and a Hilliard lay-up gave them their biggest lead, 24, at 77-53 with 2:03 left, and that would be the final score.

JayVaughn Pinkston led the way for Villanova with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Hilliard had 14 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds. Kris Jenkins had 13 points off the bench and Josh Hart had 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.

VCU was led by Melvin Johnson and Briante Weber, who had 13 points each, while Mo Alie-Cox had 10 points and 4 rebounds.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright said of the win, "Great game for us. We've had a few games that we didn't quite do everything right, tonight we made good shots. They are a very, very good team. It was a privilege for us to get that test this early against a team like that. The way the play just tests all your concepts, it tests your will, your stamina, and conditioning. We saw that on our schedule and we thought great - we'll know where we are. We all know this could have been 20 points the other way. I really admire the way Shaka runs the team and his program."

On team goals, Wright said, "We have been very fortunate to have this group of guys. The seniors demand focus of everyone around them. It is a joy to coach them. Now they're 21 and 22 years old, and that can change instantly, so we have to stay committed, we have to stay hungry. We have to keep working."

Pinkston, a Brooklyn native, said of playing in his home borough, "Coach and I talked about me coming up to play in New York, and play in front of my family. Remember to focus on defense and that's what I did the first couple of plays."

"We came out aggressive on defense," he continued. We were getting shots, keeping the ball moving ahead to the forwards, and making plays. We just have to continue and get better every day."

VCU head coach Shaka Smart said of the game, "Congrats to Villanova. I thought they played really hard and it showed a lot of poise all game long. In the second half, they really got it going. They made some great plays off the dribble and made some timely three's to extend the lead. I thought our energy was really good coming out of halftime, but after that initial six point run we had, we didn't get stops. You can't win games against anyone, particularly against a quality team like Villanova, if you can't stop them. Over one stretch, they scored five or six times in a row and then eight or so times out of ten. It's unacceptable. It's a painful reminder that we need to get better on defense."

On Villanova breaking the VCU press, Smart said, "They have sound ball handlers, they passed the ball well. I think it's a combination of the talent they have in terms of those things. They pass it well and they don't make unforced turnovers. We were not ourselves in terms of pressuring the ball, closing down traps, getting our hands on the basketball, flying around the way we need to fly around. You combine those things and that's why they had single digit turnovers."

The VCU band is always a highlight wherever they play. Photo by Jason Schott.
Michigan had a dominant first half, and took a 33-27 lead into halftime. In the second half, Oregon tied it at 40 on a three-point play by Elgin Cook with 13:45 left. Michigan responded with an 8-0 run, which included four points from Zak Irvin and was capped by a layup by Derrick Walton, Jr. Oregon pulled back to within a point, at 56-55, on a Dillon Brooks dunk with 4:09 remaining. Michigan never gave up the lead down the stretch, and an Irvin three-pointer with 1:25 left made it 64-59 Michigan, and that sealed the win.

Michigan's Caris LeVert bringing the ball up. Photo by Jason Schott.
Michigan was led by Irvin, who had 19 points and 5 rebounds, and Caris LeVert had 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Ricky Doyle had 10 points and 3 rebounds off the bench.
Oregon was led by Joseph Young, who had 20 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds. Brooks had 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. Cook had 13 points and 6 rebounds. Dwayne Benjamin had 8 points and 11 rebounds.

Michigan head coach John Beilein said of the game, "I have to applaud Oregon. They played so hard, they did a great job. Few times you will see someone give up 18 offensive rebounds and still get a 'W.' We did enough things to win the game. Low turnovers, got to the foul line, made some really big plays down the stretch and we shot the ball better in the second half from the perimeter. Ricky stepped forward tonight, Caris got a lot of things dialed up to him down the stretch and we did enough to get the 'W.'"

Oregon head coach Dana Altman said of his team's performance, "I thought we went to the boards pretty hard. We showed some aggressiveness, but we had a lot of wasted possessions offensively and did not execute what we wanted to. A lot of that was Michigan, but it also was our lack of organization. So, I was disappointed with the way our offense ran."

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