Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Virginia uses stout defense, torrid shooting to upend West Virginia

Anthony Gill's 20 points and 12 rebounds led all scorers as Virginia held West Virginia to just 18 points after halftime, defeating Mountaineers 70-54 in Jimmy V Classic. (Photo courtesy of USA Today)

NEW YORK -- Virginia's style of basketball may seem boring to those who have never experienced it, but when Tony Bennett's pack line defense is firing on all cylinders, it truly is a thing of beauty.

Fans in attendance Tuesday evening at Madison Square Garden got to see and judge for themselves, as the tenth-ranked Cavaliers (8-1) used a combination of 63 percent shooting from the floor and a defense that yielded just 18 second-half points to hand No. 14 West Virginia (7-1) their first loss of the year, defeating the Mountaineers 70-54 in the first game of the Jimmy V Classic.

"We were shaky to start," Bennett admitted. "I told them at halftime, our assistant coach, Brad Soderberg: He has a saying on his desk, it's a Mike Tyson saying. It says that everybody's got a plan until they get punched in the mouth. We absolutely got punched in the mouth."

"We weren't finishing plays defensively," he continued. "We looked lethargic. That's a credit to how hard they play and how physical they are, and obviously, it was a tale of two halves how we played in the second half."

Virginia saw four players reach double figures in scoring, led by a double-double from senior forward Anthony Gill, who recorded 20 points and 12 rebounds to pace all participants in each category. Malcolm Brogdon, the ACC's preseason Co-Player of the Year, had a quiet night with 14 points, while London Perrantes tallied all 13 of his markers after the intermission, draining three clutch three-pointers during the final stanza. Darius Thompson joined the trio with 10 points of his own.

West Virginia, who led 36-30 going into the locker room, got 16 points from Jaysean Paige to top the team in offense. However, after Bob Huggins' young charges were able to use their press defense as a weapon in the first 20 minutes, the Mountaineers were rendered ineffective in stopping Virginia's calculated attack, making just six field goals of the 20 they attempted, as the Cavaliers fed off questionable shot selection and 11 forced turnovers in the second half to go 14-for-19 from the field down the stretch.

"I cannot imagine we are as bad as we are," a subdued, yet frank, Huggins stated. "If we're going to shoot it that bad, (West Virginia was only 2-for-14 from three-point range) then we shouldn't shoot it. We were awful. I don't remember a team giving up that many layups in the halfcourt. That was against our halfcourt defense, which is supposed to be pretty good."

Virginia takes the next ten days off for final exams before returning home for a marquee showdown with Big East leader Villanova on December 19 at noon, while West Virginia regroups before hosting Louisiana-Monroe on Sunday in Morgantown.

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