NICEVILLE, FLA. – No. 7 ranked Virginia survived a second-half opening flurry by Providence en route to 63-52 victory to capture the Destin Realty Emerald Coast Classic championship Saturday The Friars moved to 4-2 overall and 3-1 in the tournament.
The Cavaliers, improving to 6-0 on the season, claimed their fourth consecutive regular-season tournament championship (Corpus Christi, Barclays Center, Charleston and Emerald Coast).
Virginia senior guard London Perrantes was named the outstanding player of the tournament, while junior teammate Isaiah Wilkins joined Perrantes on the all-tournament team.
“It was a lot of fun being able to come down to a beautiful city and be by the beach and play quality teams,” said Perrantes. “We had to fight for everything we got.”
Virginia entered the game leading the nation in scoring defense, giving up only 39.2 points per game. Providence (4-2) topped the season-high 51 that UNC Greensboro scored against the Cavaliers, but had trouble penetrating the tight defense that denies post touches and forces contested jumpers.
Providence shot just 36.4 percent from the floor and made just two baskets during a 10-minute stretch midway through the second half.
“Virginia is fundamentally sound and very disciplined offensively and defensively,” said Providence coach Ed Cooley. “Give them credit. They (Virginia) have a culture with a great system and phenomenal coach.”
Perrantes and junior guard Darrius Thompson paced a balanced Cavaliers attack with 11 points apiece. Perrantes also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds along with five assists.
Redshirt freshman forward Mamadi Diakite added a career-high 10 points, while blocking three shots in 17 minutes.
“I think balance is a key to us, ” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett. “Mamadi gave us a lift. His quickness and just being able to step up for us the way the game was being called.”
Wilkins hit back-to-back baskets to give Virginia a 32-18 lead with 2:25 left in the first half. The Cavaliers, shooting a sizzling 68.2 percent, enjoyed a 34-20 halftime advantage.
“Providence was the most physical team we’ve faced to this point,” Bennett added. “They made us work defensively and they also pressed. We have to keep improving.”
Perrantes’ three-pointer ended Providence’s 9-0 run to start the second half after the Friars had trimmed a 34-20 halftime deficit into a 34-29 gap.
“Whenever I’m open I want to be aggressive,” Perrantes said. “I felt we needed a buck and that gave us energy. We came out after halftime and we’re flat.”
Providence could get no closer than five points before Virginia went on an 9-3 run to extend its lead back to double digits.
“We had a lapse that proved costly,” said Bennett. “We have to become the best 40 minute outfit that we can become. It shouldn’t take a guy hitting a three-point basket to get us going.”
The Friars made just two of 20 shots from beyond the arc in their semifinal victory against Memphis Friday but warmed up against Virginia hitting eight of 16 treys.
“I think good teams make runs,” Cooley added. “We felt we had three real bad basketball plays happen…a couple buzzer beaters late on the shot clock as well as hand checks.”
Junior guard Jalen Lindsey led Providence with 18 points. Junior forward Rodney Bullock added 16, but that was short of his 20.4 average.
“I felt Rodney (Bullock) was fatigued,” said Cooley. “Maybe around six minutes left, he missed a shot right in front of us that he normal makes.”
Bullock and junior forward Emmitt Holt also were selected to the all-tournament team.