ORLANDO, Fla. – London Perrantes had never been to Orlando, but he’d already played NCAA Tournament games in Raleigh, New York, Charlotte, and Chicago prior to Thursday’s tilt with UNC Wilmington. Three Virginia freshmen, however, stepped into the bright lights of March Madness for the first time.
UVA pulled out a 76-71 win after battling in a close game.
”It was as good as advertised,” Cavalier freshman Ty Jerome said. ”It was a great game, a back and forth game and we pulled it out. Now you’ve got to forget about the game and get ready for the next one.”
Jerome posted 5 points and 2 rebounds in 22 minutes of action. Those 5 points included a 3-pointer where Jerome faked a pass to the corner and then hit the spot-up shot on the wing. That came during a furious 19-3 run to close the first half.
Fellow freshman Kyle Guy knocked down a 3-pointer in the game as well. He too finished with 5 points, while adding 3 rebounds and 1 assist in 25 minutes. Guy grew up watching the big dance and remembered going to places like BW3 to see the ongoing action.
For a kid from the basketball crazed land that is Indiana, he looked forwar to Thursday’s contest. It still didn’t prepare him for how much fun Thursday’s game was.
”I didn’t really know what to expect,” Guy said. ”I had really high expectations and it still surpassed it. So it was pretty amazing.”
Redshirt freshman Mamadi Diakite got his first taste of March Madness playing time too. He logged 5 minutes and grabbed 2 rebounds. Diakite said the atmosphere at the Amway Center was nothing like Louisville or Villanova where the noise reached levels that made it hard to hear yourself.
The intensity, however, reached a new level.
”Every team will try to go at you because they know once they lose they’re going home, there’s no more games,” Diakite said. ”It’s more of a challenge than playing even an ACC game or an ACC Tournament. I thought it was more intense and ore up and down the court.”
The three freshmen get a chance to play in another NCAA Tournament game in short order. The Cavaliers face Florida on Saturday at 8:40 p.m. with a chance to go to the Sweet 16 on the line.