Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett has used the expression, “when you whip a donkey it will kick, but when you whip a thoroughbred it responds.”
Led by senior point guard London Perrantes, UVA responded from a first half whipping to defeat a tenacious Ohio State squad, 63-61, in front of 14,566 strong at John Paul Jones Arena. The Hoos (7-0) remain unbeaten and helped the Atlantic Coast Conference defeat the Big Ten in the 2016 ACC/Big Ten Challenge, 9-5.
Putting forth great effort from start to finish, Ohio State controlled the first 20 minutes and outscored the Cavaliers 22-4 in the paint on its way to a 36-24 halftime lead. Virginia shot a paltry 8 of 28 (28.6%) from the floor in the half, while the Buckeyes made 15 of 25 (60%) field goals. At one stage, the visitors pulled ahead 32-16 to draw a quick timeout from the hosts. The Wahoos showed signs of life toward the end of the half, but an otherwise lackluster effort – especially with some missed defensive rotations – is what caught Bennett’s attention.
“We got thoroughly outplayed in every way, shape and form in the first half,” Bennett said. “They beat us down the floor, they were the aggressor on the glass, they were just a tough-minded, talented team, and we could not stop them in any way, really. We were loose with the ball.”
That effort drew attention at halftime. The Cavalier coaches “just had a pretty direct conversation with all of [the players], and what we stand for, what we built our program on, how it has to be, and not to kid ourselves,” Bennett said. “They were all challenged. I talked to London as the senior point guard. They were all challenged and I thought they responded. It was really quick how they came out, and I think Ohio State was a little loose, but boy, we closed that gap awfully quick.”
Perrantes heard the message loud and clear.
A driving layup from Perrantes, who scored only 4 points with 3 turnovers in the first half, sparked an 11-0 Virginia run to start the second half. The senior wasn’t finished. After OSU pulled ahead again, Perrantes answered a 50-42 Buckeye lead with consecutive 3-pointers to get UVA within three points. He tied the game at 55 with another triple and drained 2 free throws to give the Hoos a 61-57 lead with 1:27 remaining.
“He hit some big-time shots down the stretch,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said of Perrantes.
Perrantes finished with 19 points, including 15 after intermission. He committed only 1 turnover in the second half as well. The fact that Perrantes was able to rise to the occasion is something he hopes will boost the team moving forward. He praised Coach Bennett for challenging him at halftime.
“I knew I wasn’t playing to the best of my ability or even close and I feel like that was hurting our team,” said Perrantes, who led all scorers. “I was on myself about it and I’m glad [Tony Bennett] got on me. That’s the most I’ve gotten ripped by him since I’ve been here and it sparked us all just knowing that I can respond to something like that. That means that everyone can too. Just being able to go out after that and play the way we did is huge.”
While Perrantes helped put his team in position to win, the game’s outcome wasn’t decided until the final seconds. Down 63-61, Ohio State had possession with just 6.5 seconds remaining. An outstanding Virginia defensive effort forced guard JaQuan Lyle to heave a fall-away 3 as time expired. He missed. Fittingly, the ball deflected off the rim into the hands of Perrantes, who let out a roar knowing his team had secured victory.
Virginia, which made 46.4% of its field goals in the second half, also received a quality performance from Devon Hall. The junior guard totaled 12 points, 7 of which came in the second half, to go with 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. Junior guard Marial Shayok finished with 8 points while forward Jarred Reuter had 7 points and 4 rebounds. Shayok missed 2 free throws that could have extended UVA’s 63-61 lead with 11 seconds left but made up for it with sticky defense that forced Lyle into the tough 3-point attempt.
“I thought they were going to go in and they hit the back rim, but you just have to forget about it and have a short memory,” Shayok said of those missed free throws. “I knew I would feel even worse if my guy got the bucket or scored a three to win the game so I just had to refocus and play good defense.”
That trademark defense on the final possession had surfaced after halftime. The Hoos limited Ohio State to 36.8% shooting in the final 20 minutes. They also slowed down Buckeye forward Jae’Sean Tate, who scored just 2 more points after racking up 12 in the first half.