Tony Bennett addresses media following Virginia's win over West Virginia in Jimmy V Classic. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)
New York City - In the opener of the Jimmy V Classic, it was West Virginia facing Virginia. The Mountaineers struck early. Virginia maintained poised, regrouped, and went on to post the victory. The tenth-ranked Cavaliers improved to 8-1. Fourteenth-ranked West Virginia suffered their first setback, and is now 7-1.
First half impressions: The ‘first four’ minutes saw the score knotted at 6. Interestingly, all three Cavalier field goals were on dunks. West Virginia was pressing after scores before falling back into a man to man. The Mountaineers were making a conscious effort to close out on the perimeter, as Virginia entered the contest hitting at a 38 percent rate from three.
The Mountaineers entered the game averaging 75 possessions. Virginia’s average is 71. Not surprisingly, coach Bob Huggins was looking to run, especially off Virginia turnovers to get that quicker tempo.
Late in the half, West Virginia opened a 12 point lead, but their pressure and offensive transition were both taking its toll. Leading scorer Devin Williams (18.7 PPG) had only four points, but 6-2 senior guard Jaysean Paige took up the slack.
Virginia settled down, began attacking the gut of the West Virginia defense, and converted. The Cavaliers closed the game to two possessions, 36-30, at the half.
Offensive efficiency: West Virginia 109 Virginia 91
Second half: Virginia won the first four minutes, 5-4. At the 16-minute media timeout, they trailed by five. The Mountaineers got off to a sluggish start on the offensive end in those four minutes, but Virginia did not capitalize as well as they could.
Virginia got the stops and their own offense got on track. Attacking the basket, 6-8 redshirt senior Anthony Gill is a matchup problem off the dribble or getting the ball off a cut, and emerged as the key option for Tony Bennett’s club tonight.
A London Perrantes three with just over four minutes to go boosted the Cavalier lead to 11, a 23-point swing in Virginia’s favor over a span of approximately 20 minutes.
Williams of West Virginia never got on track, and there was a very good reason. Every time he caught the ball on the blocks or vicinity of the paint, he was doubled as a weak side defender came over to help.
Virginia closed out a 70-54 victory that truly was a ‘tale of two halves.’
Possessions: West Virginia 65, Virginia 66
Offensive efficiency: West Virginia 83, Virginia 106
eFG%: West Virginia 42, Virginia 66
FT Rate: West Virginia 42, Virginia 47
OREB pct: West Virginia 36, Virginia 35
TO Rate: West Virginia 28, Virginia 29
West Virginia: Jaysean Paige (16 points, effectiveness factor of 19)
Virginia: Anthony Gill (20 points, EF 32)
Defense was a key. Virginia was guilty of a 29 percent turnover rate, but forced West Virginia into a 28 percent rate while limiting the Mountaineers to a 42 percent eFG mark. No surprise in the final defensive efficiency of 83, in fact, the second half offensive efficiency posted by West Virginia was only 56.
West Virginia’s Devin Williams, their leading scorer on the season, was held to 10 points. He came in with an effectiveness factor per minute of 1.10, an outstanding figure. On the night, Williams was only .440.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett credited the defense of Williams as a huge game changer, as well as his team’s own resolve in the second half.
“We were punched in the mouth (figuratively) the first half,” he said. “Facing their press and having trouble rebounding, we were fortunate to be down only six at the half. We started with three ball handlers, and at times, (against the press) it looked liked we had three centers. I think limiting them to one shot frequently in the second half was a big difference.”