No. 6 men’s basketball falls to No. 25 West Virginia
Bennett’s questionable lineup decisions limit Cavaliers
Senior point guard London Perrantes glared at the television mounted in the top corner of the John Paul Jones Arena pressroom as it aired the highlights from the No. 6 Virginia basketball team’s 66-57 loss to No. 25 West Virginia (6-1).
The Cavaliers (7-1) had just fallen on their home court for the first time since 2015, when Duke spoiled College GameDay with a 69-63 victory.
The Mountaineers made Perrantes exert energy through their full-court press, wearing him down physically and mentally throughout his 37 minutes Saturday and leading him to commit three turnovers. Perrantes put up just six points on 2-10 shooting.The floor general hadn't failed to score at least 10 since Nov. 22 when he played just 17 minutes against Grambling State.
“I feel like I get everybody’s best now, with Malcolm [Brogdon] and Anthony [Gill] being gone,” Perrantes said. “It is early in the season and I’m not used to it, but we have guys that can step up and help me and help the team, so I’m not worried too much about it.”
Junior guard Darius Thompson had the strongest performance offensively for Virginia, tallying a season high 14 points on 5-10 shooting. The former Tennessee Volunteer drained a three at the top of the key and another in the right corner, igniting a 12-4 run to open the game for the Cavaliers.
“We had a terrific start,” coach Tony Bennett said. “We were swarming … We had energy, and they just kind of wore on us. I think a couple of crucial turnovers that led to breakaways, missing some free throws, where maybe that lead could have stretched a little more, and they’re just not going to go away.”
After the Cavaliers’ hot start, West Virginia battled back, thanks in large part to the play of junior guard Daxter Miles Jr. In 11 first-half minutes, Miles contributed seven points on 3-3 shooting. He was arguably the best player on the floor until the officials ejected him at the 2:42 mark, judging his elbow to junior forward Isaiah Wilkins’ face to be a Flagrant II foul.
Even without Miles, who entered with a 7.3 point-per-game average, the Mountaineers found a variety of ways to score against Virginia’s vaunted pack-line defense — seven other West Virginia players chipped in six or more points.
Junior guard Jevon Carter attacked the lane and got to the line, where he converted all five of his chances. Carter tallied a team-high 11 points, to go along with five assists, three steals and a block.
West Virginia senior forward Nathan Adrian recorded 10 points, five rebounds and four assists. He and sophomore forward Esa Ahmad, who added nine points and a team-high seven rebounds, had success against the Cavaliers’ young frontcourt. The Mountaineers outscored Virginia 26-14 in the paint.
“At times, we will try to trap in the post,” Bennett said. “We have to keep the ball out of the paint first with our perimeter defense. We have to be good at swarming and rebounding, but that depends who we have out there personnel-wise. We have different strengths on our team, but I have to do a better job of finding them.”
Wilkins battled the Mountaineers’ frontcourt, totaling seven points and eight boards, but received little help from the other three Cavalier forwards — sophomores Jack Salt and Jarred Reuter and redshirt freshman Mamadi Diakite — who combined to produce only eight points and six rebounds.
As much as a lack of interior scoring hurt Virginia, they missed six free throws and turned the basketball over a season-high 14 times. West Virginia turned those miscues into 18 points on the other end, compared to just five points off turnovers for Virginia.
“Basketball in general is a game of runs,” Thompson said. “We had our run and then they came down and forced some turnovers. They had easy layup opportunities, so I would say that that’s what helped them out.”
Junior guard Marial Shayok and freshman guard Kyle Guy each provided a spark off the bench for the Cavaliers. Shayok hit on three of his eight attempts for nine points, while Guy knocked down three of four looks for seven points in only nine minutes.
Surprisingly, Bennett subbed both out with 11:27 in the second half, choosing to play freshman guard Ty Jerome and junior guard Devon Hall down the stretch. The decision to sit the team’s third and fourth leading scorers for two who average a combined 7.6 points per game had fans scratching their heads. West Virginia went on an 11-2 run over the final 1:44, stymying Virginia’s offense entirely.
The Cavaliers will look to get back on the winning track at John Paul Jones Arena Tuesday against East Carolina (7-2) at 7 p.m.