Coming into Saturday afternoon’s game both No. 6 Virginia and No. 25 West Virginia were trying to figure some things out offensively while sticking to recent identities.
The Cavaliers could rely on their trademark stingy defense to squeeze opponents into low scores while the Mountaineers wanted to press and use their length, athleticism and depth to wear down opponents and force turnovers.
Neither team had a real go-to scorer.
And despite Virginia dictating the game’s tempo, West Virginia was able to hang around long enough and deliver the final blow to capture a 66-57 signature non-conference road win on Saturday.
West Virginia (6-1) responded after Daxter Miles Jr. was ejected in the first half for throwing an elbow at the head of Isaiah Wilkins as the Mountaineers forced enough turnovers to outlast Virginia.
With the game tied at 55 with under two minutes left, Esa Ahmad (nine points) buried the go-ahead three as the Cavaliers went cold in the final minute.
Guard Jevon Carter paced West Virginia with 11 points while Nathan Adrian finished with 10 points. West Virginia forced 14 Virginia turnovers, which isn’t a particularly high amount, but in a game with fewer possessions as Virginia tends to play (61 possessions in Saturday’s game compared to West Virginia’s averaged of 75) that is a good amount.
This is a potential signature victory for West Virginia’s NCAA tournament hopes. It also gives West Virginia a leg up as a bunch of teams are trying to jockey for position in the Big 12 as Kansas and Baylor have looked like the top two teams early in the season.
Winning at Virginia at least puts West Virginia in the conversation among the Big 12’s best teams. With the Mountaineers playing a pretty easy schedule this win was nice to have going into a stretch of winnable buy games that should inflate West Virginia’s record heading into conference play.
Virginia (7-1) jumped out to a 16-6 lead and looked like they might be able to run away with it early, but West Virginia was able to settle in and make it a slugfest. With the loss of Austin Nichols, this team is still struggling to find a guy who can get them easy buckets.
London Perrantes is more equipped to be a setup guy and Darius Thompson had some nice stretches to finish with 14 points, but he was also inconsistent and scored in bursts when the team needed a consistent shotmaker.
We know Tony Bennett’s team is going to defend all life out of you, but if the game is close and they need someone to take over the offense, they’re still seeking a go-to guy. In a deep and rugged ACC that should feature a lot of close games, this will be something to monitor.