Best Virginia is moving on to The Basketball Tournament’s round of 16 after grinding out a 63-51 victory over D2 in a second round matchup in Charleston on Monday.
The WVU alumni squad got its second win of the tournament in a significantly less stressful manner than its first round matchup, preventing a D2 comeback during the famed “Elam Ending.” Having already built up a double-digit lead entering the final four minutes of the game, Best Virginia was able to comfortably hit the target score of 61 — capped off by a three-pointer from Nathan Adrian.
Jamel Morris got Best Virginia off to a fast start in the first quarter. The honorary Mountaineer scored eight points in the first quarter as his team ended the quarter with a 10-point lead.
“I just think we had good energy to start the game from the beginning. We were in attack mode, we weren’t playing on our heels,” said Best Virginia forward Kevin Jones.
D2 stormed back in the next quarter, though, cutting the Best Virginia lead to four at halftime. They completed their early comeback early in the third quarter, forcing Best Virginia to jockey for the lead heading into the fourth.
A three-pointer from John Flowers started an eight-point run for Best Virginia, getting the lead back into double-digits, and setting up the comparatively stress-free Elam Ending.
Jones was the leader for Best Virginia, notching 13 points and six rebounds. Adrian, Morris and Tarik Phillip each added 11 points as the team’s other double-digit scorers, while Alex Ruoff topped WVU with 10 boards. Flowers scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds.
Two members of D2 were just a rebound away from a double-double. Shaun Willett paced the squad in scoring with 12 points, while Todd Withers added 11 — both of whom grabbed nine rebounds.
The Best Virginia victory pushes the team into TBT’s third round for the first time, after falling in the 2019 second round to Overseas Elite.
“Just to get past this round and move on to the finals of this region is a great feeling, and we can’t dwell on it too much, of course we want to celebrate it and be happy for our win, but it’s on to the next one,” Jones said.
Best Virginia will next face Team 23, who knocked out Herd That (a Marshall alumni team) in an Elam Ending thriller on Monday night. Team 23 has competed in TBT since the second edition of the tournament in 2015, and features an interesting mix of players, including former NBA hoopers Walter Lemon Jr., Eric Griffin and Daniel Ochefu.
“If you’re in the tournament at this point in time, you’ve got a great makeup, you’ve got great chemistry,” said Best Virginia coach James Long. “That’s what Team 23 has.”
Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. on Wednesday, and the matchup will be shown on ESPN3.