When last seen, Virginia was struggling to put away a Kent State team that would be described in college basketball circles as a mid-major, if that.
It’s unlikely that many people were impressed when the Cavaliers were able to outlast Kent State 71-64 in overtime but sometimes the best wins are the games you don’t lose.
If nothing else, the 18th-ranked Cavaliers (3-1) could put the Kent State game behind them as they prepare for Wednesday’s 9:15 p.m. meeting with No. 4 Michigan State (5-0) at John Paul Jones Arena.
The Spartans already have victories over two other ACC teams, Notre Dame and Duke, while Virginia’s wins have come over Towson, St. Francis of Pennsylvania and now Kent State.
Added to a 61-60 loss to San Francisco in the second game of the season, that didn’t make for much of a resume.
Not much was made of the UVa-Kent State matchup until the scores scrolled across sports sites nationwide.
Kent State, a 21 1/2-point underdog, jumped out a 7-2 lead that UVa subsequently countered with a 13-5 run, but the Golden Flashes never went away.
There were 13 lead changes in the game and Virginia was fortunate to have the game go into overtime at 62-62. Kent State had taken a 59-58 lead following a layup by Kent State’s Danny Pippen with 1:27 left.
Pippen is the son of former NBA great Scotty Pippen and the Golden Flashes, as a team, did not lack for talent.
Kent State’s head coach, Rob Senderoff, has not received nationwide acclaim but has averaged more than 20 wins over the past nine seasons. He earlier had served as an assistant at Kent State under Gary Waters and current Boston College coach Jim Christian.
It was interesting after the game to hear UVa coach Tony Bennett publicly praise administrative assistant Ronnie Wideman for having arranged the game.
Clearly, Bennett would not have wanted to be messing around in overtime, but it was a test and the Cavaliers passed it.
“They [brought] pressure,” Bennett said after the game. “They had some athleticism. When you go against those teams, you do need a level of soundness and smarts. That just stands out.
“We missed some free throws and all that, but [it was] a hard-fought game and good for us to be in it. We just take it and move on.”
Senderoff’s biggest win at Kent State may have come during his first year, when the Golden Flashes handed West Virginia its first home loss to a nonconference opponent in 36 games.
Friday night’s game at JPJ could have been talked about for years.