Best Virginia pulls away in third quarter for comfortable 75-45 win in TBT opener

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Any fantasy Virginia Dream had of making a run in The Basketball Tournament was erased by a smothering defensive effort from Best Virginia.

In the nightcap of the first day of the West Virginia Regional, West Virginia’s alumni-based team held Virginia Dream to 18-of-69 shooting, including 4 of 28 from long range, and a dominant third quarter allowed the top seed to pull away for a comfortable 75-45 victory Sunday at the Charleston Coliseum.

“We just locked in, especially in the second half,” Best Virginia forward Kevin Jones said. “It’s a credit to our defense and our length, rotation and communication. All of that played a part in it.”

Although Virginia Dream made only 11-of-37 field goals in the opening half, its deficit was only five at the break. That was in large part due to Best Virginia’s 10-of-30 shooting, which prevented the team from leading by more than the 33-28 advantage it carried into halftime.

“We’ve talked about it the whole time in my two years of TBT — you’re fighting that comfort battle,” Best Virginia coach James Long said. “It’s a group of people that had never played together and you’re trying to get comfortable as quickly as you can. It takes time.”

The third quarter was an entirely different story. Best Virginia scored 12 unanswered points to start the second half and was dominant on both ends of the court, making 9-of-16 shots and holding Virginia Dream to 2-of-13 shooting.

In the frame, Best Virginia had seven players score, while Virginia Dream totaled only six points. Jermaine Haley outscored BD by himself with seven third-quarter points, while Jones added five.

“At halftime, we talked about everybody buying in and playing their role,” BV forward John Flowers said.

BV’s lead was 51-34 late in the third, before Haley’s 3-pointer and field goals from Jamel Morris and Jones made it a 24-point game entering the fourth.

Virginia Dream got no closer than 22 in the fourth and faced an insurmountable 67-41 deficit when the contest entered the Elam Ending.

“The first half was a little uncomfortable for us, but guys did a much better job in the second half,” Long said.

Flowers hit a triple for Best Virginia’s first points during the Elam Ending stretch, and after Juwan Staten and Jones added baskets, Staten sealed the verdict with one free throw.

For as strong as the second half was, Best Virginia struggled early. But after falling behind 6-0, BV settled in and gained its first lead at 11-10 on Haley’s layup in transition.

Morris, a former standout at Fairmont State, provided the final points of the opening frame with a triple that broke a 13-all tie.

(Best Virginia postgame press conference) 

Jones and Morris combined for their own 8-0 run that enabled BV to lead 24-16 at the midway point of the second quarter, though five points from Virginia Dream’s Keithric Pressley in less than a minute cut his team’s deficit to 31-27 later in the quarter.

Although Virginia Dream finished with a 48-45 rebounding advantage for the game, it went to the intermission with a 30-19 edge on the boards, including 12-3 on the offensive end.

“They were more physical than us,” Flowers said. “They brought it to us and killed us on the glass in the first half. We weren’t doing the simple things like boxing out and going and getting the rebound. We have to get back to the fundamentals.”

Jones led all players with 18 points and tied for game-high rebounding honors with eight. Haley and Morris scored 11 apiece, while Flowers added 10 points.

Devin Ebanks had eight boards in the win.

Best Virginia also had a decisive advantage at the free-throw line, cashing in on 16 of its 20 attempts, while Virginia Dream made only 5 of 11 from the charity stripe.

Virginia Dream made only 7-of-32 shots in the second half and missed all 13 of its 3-point attempts.

“Defense is going to be our identity and what we need to do well if we want to win games in this,” Long said.

Ed Polite was VD’s lone double-figure scorer with 11 points.

The win sets up a second-round matchup between Best Virginia and Marshall’s alumni-based team, Herd That, at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

“We all talked before the game about how we weren’t going to look past Virginia Dream,” Jones said, “but now that it’s here, I’m very excited.”

(Greg Carey & Joe Brocato put a wrap on wins by Best Virginia & Herd That) 





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