For London Perrantes, today started and ended with a standing ovation as the lone Virginia senior picked up a huge 67-42 win over Pitt in his final home game. Perrantes led the Hoos with 22 points as Virginia put their recent shooting issues even further behind them with a 44% performance from the field. Michael Young led Pitt with 14 points as the Panthers struggled from the field, shooting just 33% (20% from three).
Two months ago (January 4), Virginia traveled to Pitt, falling in overtime, 88-76, in a game that saw the Panthers connect on 61% of their three-pointers.
“I thought I was going to be a little more emotional.” Perrantes said of his Senior Day experience. “Just knowing that it’s not over is huge, knowing that I have some more games to play with the team, with this coaching staff. Obviously it was a tough day for me not getting to play here again, but I’m glad we all came out here and played well and got the win.”
For the third straight game, the Hoos have looked unflappable on defense. “We were better,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said after the game. “A little loose on times on transition d[efense]...I think we tried to forge our identity in the Carolina game [Monday] and we talked about a way for us was taking care of the ball and just get into the ball and battle defensively. We’ve found a formula that we’ve been working towards all year and at the Carolina game we brought it to fruition and for the most part we carried on.”
Over the course of their last three games, Virginia has held their opponents (NC State, #5 UNC, and Pitt) to an average of 46.6 points per game. Now, the offense looks to be rebounding after hitting rock bottom over their four game slump.
Virginia opened the game on a 10-0 run and never looked back. Pitt’s leading scorers, Jamel Artis and Michael Young, didn’t enter the game until about the 10 minute mark of the first half due to a team disciplinary issue (they were apparently late for breakfast), and the Panthers struggled without them.
Although the attention was on London Perrantes early for Senior Day festivities, the first years showed off in the first half. Ty Jerome (eight points, two steals), Mamadi Diakite (four points, three rebounds), and Kyle Guy (three points) combined for 15 of Virginia’s 32 first half points. It could have been more, but Jerome and Guy only played nine and five minutes, respectively, due to foul trouble. Perrantes led the Hoos at halftime with 11 points, three rebounds, and three assists to go with no turnovers as Virginia held Pitt to just 15 first half points.
Pitt’s 15 points is the lowest scored by an ACC team in a half since Virginia held Louisville to 14 points last season at the KFC Yum! Center.
In the second half, the Hoos shot 41% from the field as Perrantes and Jerome hit a couple threes to extend the lead and Jack Salt showed some post moves down low. Virginia outscored Pitt in the paint 26 to 16 for the game, and scored a gaudy 27 points off of turnovers in the game (Pitt, on the other hand, had none).
Jerome finished the game with 13 points, and Salt finished with a game-high nine rebounds.
One of the best moments of the game occurred with 4:16 left in the second half as Jerome drove the lane as the shot clock ticked down. With the crowd counting down to let him know, Jerome found Perrantes all alone on the wing, and buried the three. The two hugged on the court right after (timeout was called), with huge smiles on their faces.
London was sure to let the young gun know he wasn’t quite done, however. “I said, ‘It’s not yours yet. It’s not your program yet. I’ve still got some games left to play.’” Perrantes told the media with a huge smile. “He’s [Jerome] coming into his own. It’s good to see for him to grow over this year, the only year that I have with him is huge. His confidence is through the roof right now. We need it now, and they’re definitely going to need it next year and in the years to come.”
A couple trips down the court later, with 2:17 remaining, Perrantes received a pass from Guy. The three rattled around the rim before falling through.
The shot was his last in JPJ.
Virginia has had immense success in recent senior day games, beating #11 Louisville by 22 in 2016, Virginia Tech by 12 in 2015, and #4 Syracuse by 19 in 2014. “I talked to the guys before the game. A way to serve London is to lay it on the line and I so wanted it to go well for him.” Bennett said. “When he came out of the game...I embraced him and said, ‘We’ve had a lot of good times on this court, haven’t we?’ And he said, ‘Yes, we have.’”
As London left the floor of John Paul Jones Arena for the final time, Coach Bennett wanted to make sure it was special. Bennett recounted a story of his senior day at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay when his father - his coach at the time - walked him off the court with his arm around him. “I waited for London and I said to him, ‘I want to walk off this court with you with my arm around you.’” Bennett stated. “I’m very grateful for his decision to come to Virginia and we’ve had so many special players, but he’s been a catalyst for what’s happened and that brought me great joy just to be able to do that...It probably meant more to me than him.”
The moment was special for Perrantes, as well.
“It was cool.” Perrantes said. “Walking off the floor with Coach Bennett was huge. He gave me this opportunity and without him I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have had the success that I’ve had.”
It somehow seems fitting to usher out one of Virginia’s greatest point guards with John Paul Jones Arena’s 150th win as the Hoos are heading to their fourth straight NCAA tournament with Perrantes on the helm, a feat that hasn’t been achieved by a Virginia team for over three decades. Next up, however, the Hoos head to Brooklyn for the ACC tournament. Virginia’s seed situation in the ACC tournament is still up in the air as they have to wait on the rest of ACC action, but they did their part with their win today.