Virginia flips the script: Win over WVU most impressive of Bennett era?

uva-basketballThe Jimmy V Classic started out for #10 Virginia like another December game a couple of years back. Then it morphed into its last game in Madison Square Garden.

The ending was different than those other two.

When the Cavs looked up at the scoreboard and saw themselves down 12 with 4:59 left in the first half, it was starting to feel like the night in Knoxville two years ago that ended with Tennessee putting a 35-point whoopin’ on.

It was still 12 with 2:23 left before UVA was able to close on a modest 7-1 run that cut the margin to six at the half.

A 12-4 run out of the locker room gave Virginia the lead on a three by London Perrantes with 13:03 left, and it was at that point that the game was starting to feel like the Michigan State game in the Sweet 16 in 2014.

The Spartans had opened up an early double-digit lead on Virginia in MSG that late night, before Virginia chipped away, chipped away, chipped away, took a lead, then lost Anthony Gill to injury.

Michigan State ended up winning a tight one that night, taking advantage of the absence of Gill to defend in the post, in particular.

Gill didn’t get hurt this night in the Garden.

UVA never trailed after the Perrantes three, and closed out the game on a 15-5 run in the final 5:35.

Over the final 22:24, the score was Virginia 47, West Virginia 19.

For perspective on that, WVU had come into the game scoring 88.4 points per game, 44.2 points per half.

The Mountaineers would finish with 54.

The first 17 minutes were a punch in the mouth by West Virginia, which was getting what it wanted on offense, with backdoor cuts leading to easy layups, and its defense was harassing Virginia into ugly turnovers and denying passes into the post and overplaying passing lanes on the perimeter.

The next 10 minutes were Virginia tasting the blood in its nose and fighting back.

The last 13 minutes were the Cavs subduing a team that is accustomed to being the one that wears down its opponents, not being on the other side of the smackdown.

If you had been told before the game that Virginia would beat a good WVU team by 16 and limit the ‘Neers to 54 points, you would have been impressed just knowing that much.

Seeing how UVA was able to flip the script, that might have been the most impressive win this group has put on the board.

– Column by Chris Graham

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