Virginia and West Virginia brought their dueling basketball styles to the court for another head-to-head battle Tuesday night. For the third straight season, the team that won the final 10 minutes won the game. The Mountaineers took those laurels again this season as they prevailed 68-61 in Morgantown.
That win gave WVU the rubber match with two wins against the Hoos in this three-year stretch. The loss sends Virginia into its exam break with an 8-1 mark.
“We’ve had a great series; his teams are tough,” UVA coach Tony Bennett said. “They’re well coached. He’s one of the best. Then, you come into this arena, and I had heard a lot about it, and I wasn’t quite ready for the gunshot. The guy surprised me on that one. … These people know good basketball. They’ve been treated to a heck of a coach and a heck of a program. It’s a very good atmosphere, and it’s good for our young guys to be in. We’ve got to grow up and learn from it, because there’s a lot of those in the ACC.”
Much like last season’s game at the John Paul Jones Arena, West Virginia pulled out the victory with strong offense and shot-making down the stretch. A year ago, the Mountaineers scored on 10 of their final 11 possessions to win by nine. On Tuesday, they mirrored that finish by scoring on eight of their final 11 possessions. Back in 2015, it was UVA making all the plays in the final 10 minutes to win at Madison Square Garden.
On Tuesday, sophomore forward Lamont West did a lot of the closing time damage as part of a big night. With the score tied at 51-51, he made a 3-pointer with 6:02 to go. The teams traded baskets before Kyle Guy hit a triple that tied it again at 56-56, but West stepped up with another jumper to break that final tie with 4:26 remaining.
West delivered another 3-pointer at the 3:03 mark after WVU took a timeout leading 58-56. He also knocked down two free throws to make it a two-possession game with 1:11 to go and UVA’s defense trying to get a big stop down 61-59. West finished with 22 points and four rebounds. He went 4-of-9 shooting from 3-point range after making just 11 of 40 triples on the season entering the game.
The Mountaineers also got 23 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals from senior guard Jevon Carter. He made several tough shots to get there, including a high-arching shot clock beater at a key moment in the second half. Throw in 12 points, four assists, and two steals from Daxter Miles Jr. and West Virginia had enough firepower to get past UVA’s defense. WVU shot 42% for the game (21-50), but 47.6% after halftime (10-21). Those three players combined for seven of the hosts’ 10 3-pointers, the most made against Virginia so far this season.
“[Carter is] a heck of a player. He and West made some tough shots,” Bennett said. “Whenever we either got a lead or we were right there, they would hit a 3, and I’ll watch it on tape, some contested 3’s that cost us. I think we played well in stretches, and then I think there were some stretches where we didn’t play well, and it was just enough of those stretches to cost us, whether it was falling asleep on an out of bounds play or a couple of turnovers.”
While West Virginia did make some tough shots in the second half, Virginia got going after halftime too. The Hoos shot 41.3% for the game (19-46), but 52.0% after intermission (13-25).
Guy shouldered much of that production after missing his first six shots in the first half. At one point in the second half, he made a trio of triples on three straight possessions. That barrage pushed UVA ahead 41-39 at the 13:12 mark. Later in the half, he knocked down three more long-range shots among four attempts to tie the game at 56-56 with 4:59 remaining. The sophomore finished with 18 points on 6-of-17 shooting to go with three rebounds. He set a new career high with those six 3-pointers.
In the first half, wing counterpart Devon Hall helped lead the way. The Hoos fell behind 7-0 before Mamadi Diakite and Hall led a surge. Diakite scored his team’s first five points to erase the slow start and finished with nine points, five rebounds, two blocked shots, and two steals. Hall followed those five points with eight straight points, including a layup that gave UVA its first lead at 10-9. The senior captain ended up with 19 points, six assists, four rebounds, and one steal.
The Cavaliers also got nine points from Ty Jerome, who added one rebound, three assists, and one steal as well. The sophomore also lost four turnovers, however, including two in the final 1:30 as the teams were locked in a two-point game. The Hoos closed the game with a season-high 14 turnovers that led to 17 points for West Virginia.
“[Kyle’s] always a shot away from getting it going, and he’s such a threat. He got some pretty good looks in the first half. Maybe a couple were a little rushed, but then he got some real clean looks in the second half,” Bennett said. “I thought the guys did a good job of finding him. Devon really had a heck of a game. He kept us in there. Mamadi did. We played well enough to be in there to have a chance, but not well enough in those stretches to come away with a win in this setting against that kind of intensity and pressure.”