CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two days after struggling mightily during the Elam Ending and nearly being eliminated in the opening round of The Basketball Tournament, Best Virginia displayed better execution down the stretch to secure a 63-51 victory over D2 at the Charleston Coliseum.
With the win, second-seeded Best Virginia advances to face No. 6 seed Team 23 at 9 p.m. Wednesday in a round of 16 matchup.
“A couple different subs to get guys going toward the end, but other than that, you kind of just have to get out of their way,” Best Virginia coach James Long said. “We’ve had enough dialogue in timeouts to that point that they’re going to make the right choices.”
Best Virginia led 53-44 at the start of the Elam Ending, making 61 points the required total for the winning team.
D2, a No.7 seed, got as close as 57-51 on a Mike Davis Jr. 3-pointer. But Tarik Phillip answered with a triple, and moments later, Nate Adrian’s 3 ended the contest.
“Nate was great,” Long said. “That was one of the subs, we got Nate out and put him back a minute before to let him settle in going into the Elam Ending. Nate helps you win. He’s not going to blow you away. He does things sometimes that to the common fan it may look like, ‘what are you doing’, but he doesn’t care. He just wants to win.”
Entering the fourth quarter, Best Virginia led 45-42, but quickly used an 8-0 spurt to gain an 11-point advantage. John Flowers and Phillip made 3s, while Jamel Morris capped the run with a basket.
Best Virginia postgame press conference
After getting off to a slow start in its opening-round 70-67 victory over WoCo Showtime, Best Virginia was much sharper at the outset Monday. The WVU-alumni based team closed the opening period on a 14-4 run, turning what had been a tied contest into a 22-12 lead.
“We put a point of emphasis that we didn’t want to play from behind,” Phillip said. “We came out and punched first.”
During the early run, Morris scored eight points with a pair of triples. The left-handed sharpshooter is the only player on Best Virginia to not play at West Virginia. Instead, the former Fairmont State standout was a late addition to the team last week, but has made a smooth transition.
“We made that addition to try to win a million dollars,” Long said. ‘The more we go on in this tournament, the more comfortable he’ll be and the more people will see his value. He finds a way to play off other guys.”
Kevin Jones’ dunk 4:19 before halftime left Best Virginia with a 30-21 lead, but marked the team’s final points of the half.
D2 ran off five points over that time, including a 3 from Kendale McCullum that made it a four-point game at the break.
Two free throws from Dustin Sleva allowed D2 to hold a 34-33 advantage near the midway point of the third quarter, but Adrian scored seven points over the final 4:58 of the period to help Best Virginia take the three-point lead into the fourth.
Jones had a team-high 13 points in the win. Adrian, Phillip and Morris scored 11 apiece, while Alex Ruoff had a team-best 10 rebounds.
D2, which shot 18 of 57 from the field and made only 6-of-30 3s, got 12 points from Shaun Willett and 11 from Todd Withers.
Willett, Withers and Josh Hawley each had nine rebounds, helping D2 win the battle of the boards, 41-36.
“Our mindset was just to scrap no matter what,” Jones said. “Whether it was pretty or ugly, a win is a win. If that’s the way we have to get it done, that’s how we get it done. Thankfully, we’re used to playing that brand of basketball.”