Swift reversal: WVU crumbles as Cavaliers comeback

NEW YORK — No. 14 West Virginia, so commanding in the first half, displayed all its flaws thereafter.

Virginia point guard London Perrantes, entirely ineffective early, played with polish and precision as the game turned around.

Thus, the 10th-ranked Cavaliers abruptly reversed course at Madison Square Garden, transforming a 12-point deficit into a 70-54 win.

Perrantes, only nine days removed from an appendectomy, scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, all during a potent second half when Virginia (8-1) outscored the Mountaineers 40-17.

“We were shaky to start,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett. “London was disappointed in himself (the first half) and then he stepped up and hit a couple big shots.”

Anthony Gill had 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds and Malcolm Brogdon finished with 14 points.

Jaysean Paige’s 16 points led West Virginia (7-1), which enjoyed a 35-23 edge 2:23 before intermission and seemed to be making its case for a top-10 ranking. But as Virginia’s grinding pace took over, WVU’s halfcourt offense grew stale during a 2-of-15 shooting stretch.

“We had the game where we wanted it in the first half, but we’ve got to finish,” Paige said. “In the first half we moved the ball and played together. Second half, the ball kind of stuck a little bit and we shot a few bad shots.

Devin Williams finished with 10 points and three rebounds, both season lows, and West Virginia’s 3-point shooters couldn’t pick up the offensive slack, making only 2-of-14.

Compounding the problems, Virginia became the first opponent to outrebound WVU 29-24.

“They did a good job containing me and keeping me off the boards,” Williams said. “Evey time I caught the ball I saw two people (coming) at me. As a player and leader in the position I’m in, that’s part of me growing and understanding some things may be uncomfortable. All I can do is watch film and try to realize the double-team quicker.”

Despite shooting 54 percent in the opening half, Virginia trailed 36-30, forfeiting possessions with a season-worst 11 turnovers. Only a monster half by Gill—15 points on 7-of-9 shooting—kept the Cavaliers close. The 6-8 forward grabbed eight boards, leading to a pair of putbacks.

“(Gill) had a terrific game,” Bennett said. “Anthony mad some tough plays and finishes, grabbed some rebounds just to keep us at least having a chance.”

Perrantes, after missing two games following an appendectomy, endured a sluggish start by committing two fouls and two turnovers before taking his first shot nearly 2 minutes into the second half, a 3-pointer from the left wing.

When Perrantes made his next 3 as well, it put Virgina ahead for good, 42-40.

“We slowed down and got out of what we were doing,” Williams said. “We had them on the ropes (in the first half) and our motion was looking good. But we took bad shots when we were up 12 instead of staying with what we had going.”

West Virginia’s starting backcourt of Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles were a combined  2-of-17 from the floor and 0-of-7 from 3-point range.

“They’re known for playing pack-line defense,” Paige said, “but we didn’t hit shots tonight so it gave them a better reason to pack the lane.”