Oakland junior point guard Kay Felder led all scorers with 30 points. But it was not enough to stop a dominating second half by #5 Virginia, as the Cavaliers beat the visiting Golden Grizzlies 71-58. Oakland came into the game averaging 88.4 points per game, good for fourth in the nation. But they had trouble penetrating Virginia’s tough 2-3 zone defense. Felder’s ability to hit step-back jump shots helped propel Oakland to a 29-28 halftime lead. Virginia point guard London Perrantes was having a tough time guarding Felder in one-on-one situations. But Virginia stormed out of the gates in the second half on a 12-2 run, and never looked back. Oakland was hurt during that run by turning the ball over three times in their first four possessions. While Virginia, one of the best teams in the nation in fewest turnovers per game, had only seven the entire contest. A tell-tale sign of Oakland’s offensive struggles are that they only had five assists the entire game, while Felder himself averages nearly nine per game. Felder was the only Oakland player who scored in double figures, as players had trouble getting open and getting shots off. Besides Felder, another bright spot came late with the promising play of true freshman Xavier Hill-Mais, who had five points and six rebounds in only nine minutes. He made some strong offensive moves to the basket, which was encouraging.
Virginia may not be the most exciting team to watch, as they wear their opponents down resulting in much of the shot clock being used on both sides of the court. But they have put more of an onus this season on scoring, averaging about 78 points per game this year. The Cavaliers were led by two of their senior big men. Forward Anthony Gill had 17 points and 7-footer Mike Tobey had 16 points. Virginia’s biggest lead was 69-47 with about 3:30 left in the second half. This is a very experienced team who have their eyes set on a Final Four. But Virginia (11-1) first will look to win the ACC by starting conference play on Saturday against Notre Dame. Oakland (8-5) begins Horizon League play on Saturday when they host Cleveland State.
Fun Fact: Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena is not named for the American Revolutionary War hero, as some people may assume. It is named for the father of an American billionaire, who donated tens of millions of dollars toward the arena’s construction.