When the No. 6 Virginia Cavaliers needed him most, London Perrantes stepped up. The fourth year point guard managed to have both his least impressive and most impressive halves of the season on Wednesday night as Virginia overcame a slow start and big deficit to win 63-61 over Ohio State. The game was part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which the ACC won outright for the first time since 2008.
The deficit - which was their largest since the infamous game at Tennessee in 2013 - reached 16 points as the Buckeyes doubled up the Hoos, 32-16, late in the first half.
“We got thoroughly outplayed in every way, shape and form in the first half,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett commented after the game. "They beat us down the floor, they were the aggressor on the glass, they were just a tough-minded, talented team, and we couldn't stop them in any way, really. We were loose with the ball.”
In the first half, Virginia shot just 28.6% from the field, were outscored 22 to four in the paint, turned the ball over seven times, and gave up a season-high 36 points (for reference, neither Grambling State nor St. Francis reached that in the whole game). Perrantes had just four points on 1-for-5 shooting with three turnovers to just one assist.
After the halftime break, Virginia turned a 36-24 game into a 36-35 game in just a 3:51 span as Perrantes, Devon Hall, and Darius Thompson (twice) got easy layups, and Hall nailed a triple. Just like that, it was a new game. Ohio State scored their first points of the second half with two Jae’Sean Tate free throws at the 15:50 mark, but a Jack Salt tip-in followed by a Perrantes jumper gave Virginia their first lead of the game, 39-38, with 14:43 remaining.
Ohio State wasn’t done as the Buckeyes built a 50-42 lead with under 10 minutes remaining after a layup by Micah Potter. But, Perrantes wasn’t done yet either. Over the final 9:03, the “Cali Cool” point guard hit three treys, including one to tie the game at 55 with just over nine minutes remaining. In all, Perrantes finished with 15 second half points, shooting 5-for-7 from the field, 3-for-3 from three, and 2-for-2 from the free throw line.
So: what was the catalyst?
“It was a tale of two halves for him without a doubt,” Bennett told the media. “He had a terrific second half, and a not-so-terrific first half, to be polite. I got after him, and he responded the right way defensively and worked.”
To say Coach Bennett ‘got after’ London may be a bit of an understatement.
“He yelled at me,” the point guard said with a smile.
The senior didn’t mind, however. “I liked it.” Perrantes said of his tongue lashing from his coach. “I needed it. It sparked not only me, but the whole team. I guess that’s what I needed and it helped for sure.”
When asked for specifics, that part wasn’t so clear.
“To be honest, I couldn’t tell you exactly what he said. I couldn’t tell you a word he said,” Perrantes explained. “I just kind of knew he was ribbing me and I was just looking by him and listening...it was the most I’ve ever seen him fired up.”
Regardless of the words used, the message rang loud and clear. Ohio State was not only the best team the Wahoos had faced so far this season, this was the first time they were truly challenged. How they responded speaks volumes about the team Coach Bennett has put together. Salt, despite a relatively quiet stat line, provided some pivotal plays including some tough fouls, a big tip in, and a steal. Thompson, who led the Hoos in scoring at 10 points per game coming into the affair, scored just four points - all of which came during that crucial stretch to open the second half. Defensively, however, Thompson was a vision with three blocks, two steals, and several disruptive plays.
As the intensity ramped up, Coach Bennett got a little confused exactly who he was dealing with.
No, London Perrantes isn’t Malcolm Brogdon. This team doesn’t need him to be. He does, however, share several traits with the now-NBA guard as he is a capable leader and ready to be that go-to guy when the game gets tough. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta definitely saw the similarities. “I told him just a second ago, `Last year it was Brogdon and this year it's you. I think from the standpoint of his poise and understanding, he knew when to go and when not to go”, Matta said. “He hit some big-time shots down the stretch.”
London’s poise will be pivotal as the early season tests continue for the Hoos as West Virginia and the press come to Charlottesville on Saturday. The Mountaineers will force Perrantes - and ball handlers like Hall, Thompson, Shayok, and even Guy/Jerome - to take care of the ball and value possessions. Tip-off is at 2pm, and the game will be televised by ESPNU.
Check out full highlights from Wednesday’s win, courtesy of VirginiaSportsTV:
Odds and Ends
-Nice gesture from the Hoo Crew during Ohio State’s warmups as the students held up “Buckeye Strong” to show solidarity with the Columbus community following Monday’s vicious attack on campus that left several people in the hospital.
-Devon Hall had a great game with 12 points, three assists, no turnovers, and two steals. He shot just 4-for-10 from the field, but was 2-for-4 from three and hit a couple huge free throws down the stretch.
-Ty Jerome had some pivotal minutes in the first half. In just four minutes of play, he hit a three and had a sweet floater for five points.
-The ACC won the ACC/BigTen Challenge 9-5 with wins from Virginia, Duke (vs. MSU), Miami (vs. Rutgers), Notre Dame (vs. Iowa), Virginia Tech (vs. Michigan), Florida State (vs. Minnesota), Clemson (vs. Nebraska), Louisville (vs. Purdue), and Pittsburgh (over Maryland). North Carolina (vs. Indiana), Georgia Tech (vs. PSU), Syracuse (vs. Wisconsin), NC State (vs. Illinois), and Wake Forest (vs. Northwestern) all lost.
-This was only the second time a Thad Matta team had lost after leading by 15+ points.