ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP)—Joe Harris had 18 points and Mike Scott added 14 points and nine rebounds to lead Virginia to a 60-52 victory Monday over Drake in the fourth-place game of the Paradise Jam.
Virginia shot 53 percent from the floor (20 of 38), but it was defense that won it for the Cavaliers (4-1). One game after holding Drexel to 35 points, they forced Drake into 39 percent shooting (16 of 41).
Ben Simons, the leading scorer for the Bulldogs (3-2), finished with 14 points but was just 4 of 12 from the field.
“Tough tournament,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett, whose team went 2-1 in the event. “I wish we would have had the chance to play Marquette (in the finals). They’re a heck of a team.
“But our staff, we were talking about it—Alabama came here (last season) and went 0-3 in this tournament. In these settings, especially the third game, a lot of crazy stuff happens.”
It almost did to Virginia.
Virginia led 26-15 at the half and pushed its lead to 36-20 in the early part of the second half after a basket by freshman Malcolm Brogdon.
But Drake steadily outscored the Cavaliers from there. The Bulldogs took advantage of five straight Virginia turnovers to pull within four after a bucket by David Smith with 44 seconds left in the game.
However, the Cavaliers sealed the victory with free throws down the stretch. Harris and Scott stepped to the line and hit two each as Virginia held on for the win.
“I’m glad we weathered a storm in the second (half),” Bennett said, “because we got shaky with the ball, we really did.”
Virginia, which was picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, returns to the court Friday against Green Bay, Bennett’s alma mater.
“We came out of this (tournament) 2-1 and Drake is a solid team,” Bennett said. “There was certainly some wisdom (gained) in these three games.”