No. 25 Virginia rode the combination of a strong start offensively and a suffocating defensive effort to move past Vanderbilt and into the NIT Tip-Off Championship game Friday in Brooklyn, N.Y., against Rhode Island. The Cavaliers never looked back from scoring 15 of the game’s first 16 points, downing the Commodores 68-42 in one semifinal, while the Rams captured the other semifinal on Jared Terrell’s career-best 32 points and game-winning drive, beating No. 22 Seton Hall 75-74.
Rhode Island led by nine at halftime and survived a late-game rally by the Pirates, as Terrell went scoreless for most of the final 11 minutes before converting a driving shot with 5.2 seconds remaining to put the Rams ahead to stay. The Rams finished 9-for-17 from 3-point range, getting four from beyond the arc by Terrell. The Cavaliers have allowed 51.8 points per game, holding four of their first five opponents to 53 points or fewer, and made a season-high 10 3-pointers against Vanderbilt. Guard Ty Jerome finished with a season-high 14 points to help provide plenty of support for Kyle Guy’s team-high 18 points.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
ABOUT VIRGINIA (5-0): The Cavaliers smothered Vanderbilt in Thursday’s semifinal, holding the Commodores to 23.1 percent shooting from the field and 4-of-18 from 3-point range. Guy and Jerome each hit 4-of-7 attempts from 3-point range, combining to shoot 12-of-25 from the field overall. Forward Isaiah Wilkins blocked four shots Thursday, moving into 10th place on the school’s all-time list.
ABOUT RHODE ISLAND (3-1): Terrell finished 9-of-17 from the field and a perfect 10-of-10 from the free-throw line and averages a team-best 21.8 points per game on 52.7 percent shooting from the field. The Rams were held below 81 points for the first time in four games, but shot a season-best 94.1 percent from the free-throw line (after entering the game at 65.4 percent for the season). Stanford Robinson added 15 points, his third double-digit point output of the season.
1. Guy is 13-of-25 from 3-point range through five games and is averaging 18 points per game.
2. Rhode Island, which has led the Atlantic 10 Conference in scoring defense the past three seasons, is surrendering 72 points per game so far this season.
3. The Rams are shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range, while Virginia is limiting opponents to 25.5 percent beyond the arc.
PREDICTION: Virginia 62, Rhode Island 56