Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett often speaks of the formula needed for his team to win games. In a three-game winning streak to close the regular season, including Saturday’s 67-42 triumph against Pittsburgh, the Cavaliers have found the right elements to get back in victory lane.
”I think we tried to forge our identity in the Carolina game, and we talked about a way for us was taking care of the ball, … and just get into the ball and battle defensively,” Bennett said. ”We found a formula that we have been working toward, and the Carolina game brought it to fruition, and for the most part we carried it out here.”
The key ingredients? Defense and 3-point shooting.
UVA clamped down on defense and knocked down 11 3-pointers against the Panthers on Saturday. Over the past three games, the Hoos have allowed less than 35.4% shooting in each outing. North Carolina landed at 35.4%, while NC State and Pitt checked in at 32.1% and 33.3% respectively. The average score allowed in those three games was 46.7 points. Both Carolina and Pittsburgh ended up with season-low scores in those games.
On Saturday, the Panthers managed just 15 points in the first half half and shot a meager 20% (4 of 20) from 3-point range. That dramatically flipped the script from the 88-76 loss in overtime at Pitt where the Panthers lit it up to the tune of 53.7% shooting overall and 61.9% (13 of 21) from 3-point range.
That line certainly was impacted by the absence of Michael Young and Jamel Artis in the game’s first 10 minutes. The duo arrived late to team breakfast and sat out the beginning of the contest as a result. By the time the duo checked in with 9:57 remaining, UVA had surged to a 19-2 lead. Pitt’s first field goal of the game didn’t come until the 9:01 mark as the visitors missed their first 11 shots, including seven 3-point attempts.
Young finished with 14 points to lead the Panthers, while Cameron Johnson added 9 points and 5 boards. Young posted 19 points in the first meeting. Artis made 6 of 7 3-pointers, while Johnson hit 4 of 5 in the win back in January.
”It was not the first time that this has happened,” Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings said. ”My job is to uphold the integrity of the team and do things right by them. We struggled to score at the beginning of the game, and it is not like we closed it down once they came into the game. We didn’t. We didn’t all of a sudden threaten them because we had other players in the game.”
On the other side of the floor, Virginia nailed 32 of 62 3-pointers over the last three games. That’s a sizzling 51.6% from deep. The Hoos stuck 11 of 16 (68.8%) at NCSU before returning to the John Paul Jones Arena to hit 10 of 24 (41.7%) against UNC and 11 of 22 (50.0%) against Pittsburgh.
The long-range attack got going early in Saturday’s game as UVA made four triples in building the 19-2 advantage. Kyle Guy knocked an open one down in transition at the 18:30 mark of the first half for a 5-0 lead. Jerome added back-to-back bombs to make it 16-2 and London Perrantes followed that with one of his own for the big lead at the 10:13 mark.
By the end of the afternoon, Perrantes fittingly led the shooting and scoring categories for the Hoos on his Senior Day. He canned 4 of 6 3’s – the last two on assists from the freshman guards – to finish with a game-high 22 points. That marked the fifth time this season he’s cleared the 20-point barrier. Perrantes climbed to 38th place on UVA’s all-time scoring list with 1,167 career points. He also has 106 career wins, tied for sixth all-time with Evan Nolte. He added 3 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal as well.
Jerome joined Perrantes in double figures with 13 points and 3 assists. Darius Thompson came off the bench for 8 points with a pair of triples, while Guy and Mamadi Diakite chipped in 6 each. Jack Salt grabbed a career-high 9 rebounds to go with 4 points, 1 assist, 1 blocked shot, and 1 steal.
The players were happy to send Perrantes, one of the program’s all-time winningest players, off with another one in his final home game.
“I am just happy for [him],” Jerome said. “I only got to spend this year with him, but he has been phenomenal on and off the court, especially with me and the relationship that we have built in such a short amount of time. I am going to miss him, but we still have more basketball to play.”
Perrantes, meanwhile, quickly focused on postseason play as much as his final game at JPJ.
“Different than how I thought it was going to be. I thought I was going to be a little bit more emotional,” Perrantes said. “Just knowing that it is not over is huge. Just knowing that I have some more games to play with the team and with this coaching staff. Obviously, it is a tough day for me not getting to play here again, but I am glad we all came out here and played well and got the win. Now I just get to hang out with some family that is all in town.”