NEW YORK — There was the slightest sliver of an opening, and Matthew Fisher-Davis drove the lane then leapt towards the rim.
At that moment, though, Mamadi Diakite arrived from the weak side and knocked the attempted layup out of play. That Diakite was called for a foul was overshadowed by the unspoken message: No easy baskets.
Check that. Perhaps the message was no baskets. At all.
“We have to make every possession defensively hard,” coach Tony Bennett said after Virginia’s 68-42 win over Vanderbilt in the first game of the 2017 Preseason NIT on Thursday in New York.
“I just want every shot to be contested and try to keep the ball out of the lane,” Bennett said. “If they’re going to make (shots) they’re going to have to earn them.”
“We don’t have any selfish guys on this team,” Jerome said. “We don’t care who scores. It’s about getting great shots.”
“Great shots” were something in short supply for Vanderbilt (2-3), which has lost two straight.
Matthew Fisher-Davis led the Commodores with 11.
“Defensively, they did a great job,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said of Virginia.
Essentially, the game was decided in the opening 20 minutes. At the half, Virginia led 43-17. The Cavaliers made 17 of 32 shots from the field in the opening 20 minutes, including 7 of 12 from 3. They forced seven turnovers and limited Vanderbilt to 26.1 percent shooting.
The Commodores did not score until Larry Austin Jr. made a free throw 4:26 into the game, and did not make a field goal until Djery Baptiste‘s half hook at 7:45. At those points, though, Vanderbilt had fallen behind by deficits of 8-0 and 15-1, respectively.
“We missed some shots early,” Drew said. “They made some shots. Virginia is not a team you want to get behind, especially early because they’re really hard to come back on.”
The second half was a virtual replay of the first. Vanderbilt could not navigate Virginia’s defense, and the Cavaliers’ ball movement routinely led to uncontested shots. On consecutive possessions early in the second half, Jerome knocked down wide-open 3s in front of the Cavaliers’ bench.
“It starts defensively,” Jerome said. “That’s how you break their will: You get a stop and work them on offense for a while and get a great shot and get another stop.”
Virginia led by as many 39 points in the second half.
The Cavaliers finished 45 percent (27 of 60) from the field while limiting Vanderbilt to 23.1 percent (12 of 52).
“It was a very, very good team effort defensively,” Bennett said. “It was one of those things where everything was clicking.”
Vanderbilt: The Commodores entered the game averaging 75.2 points per game and 73.0 points allowed. However, in their last two games — both losses — they have allowed No. 10 Southern California and Virginia to total 161 points, an average of 80.5.
Virginia: Now in his 10th year at Virginia, the calling card for Bennett’s teams has been their ability to dismantle opposing offensive attacks. Virginia has not ranked lower than 54th defensively under Bennett, and six of his teams finished in the top five nationally. Five games is a small sample size, but Virginia has yielded an average of 51.8 points per game.
Vanderbilt: With the loss, the Commodores fell to 5-2 all-time against Virginia.
Virginia: The Cavaliers are averaging 74 points per game.
Vanderbilt: Plays Seton Hall in the consolation game Friday.
Virginia: Plays Rhode Island in the championship game Friday.