CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Virginia coach Tony Bennett waited after No. 23 Virginia’s 67-42 victory against Pittsburgh was over, and then waited again until London Perrantes had finished a postgame television interview before putting his arm around the point guard and walking off the court.
It was what Bennett’s father, Dick, did with him after his last college game, and seemed a fitting way to honor his lone senior.
“We’ve had so many special players, but he’s been the catalyst for what’s happened,” Bennett said of the guard from Los Angeles, who has started more games than anyone in Cavaliers history and helped transform the program into an annual national contender.
“That brought me great joy just to be able to do that,” Bennett said.
Perrantes made his Senior Day special, too, by scoring 22 points and helping to foil the Panthers’ defensive game plan. He made four of Virginia’s 11 3-pointers, including two in succession late in the game before Bennett removed him to a standing ovation with 1:57 to play.
“Just knowing it’s not over is huge,” Perrantes said, “as long as I’ve got some more games to play with the team and coaching staff.”
Freshman Ty Jerome, the likely replacement as Virginia’s starting point guard next season, added three 3-pointers and 13 points as the Cavaliers (21-9, 11-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their third straight. They also avenged an 88-76 loss in overtime at Pittsburgh in January.
“Our No. 1 thing we talked about was taking away 3s,” first-year coach Kevin Stallings said after his team’s fourth consecutive loss. “They feed off of them, and we were not able to do that, obviously.”
When he was pulled from the game, Perrantes hugged his apprentice at midcourt before departing.
“I said, `It’s not yours yet. It’s not your program yet. I’ve still got some games left to play,”‘ Perrantes said he told Jerome.
Jerome has said repeatedly that he’s siphoned as much knowledge from Perrantes as he could.
“I only got to spend this year with him, but he’s been phenomenal on and off the court, especially with me and the relationship we’ve built in such a short amount of time,” Jerome said. “I’m going to miss him, but we still have more basketball to play.”
The Panthers, meanwhile, might not have much more to play this year.
Michael Young scored 14 points to lead Pittsburgh (15-16, 4-14), but the Panthers played the first 10 minutes without Young or Jamel Artis after both were late for a team function. When the team’s top two scorers finally checked in with 9:54 left in the half, Virginia led 19-2.
“We’re trying to establish a culture here of doing the right thing, being accountable and responsible,” Stallings said.
Pittsburgh missed 13 of its first 14 field goal attempts. It was the Panthers’ 12th consecutive road loss against a ranked opponent.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers head into the ACC Tournament having lost four in a row, and of greater concern to Stallings might be the idea that Young (20.1 ppg) and Artis (18.9 ppg) have been their dominant offensive weapons, and both are seniors.
Virginia: The Cavaliers appear to have their swagger back, not only on defense, where they lead the nation in scoring defense, but on offense. Perrantes has emerged from a shooting drought and Jerome and fellow freshman Kyle Guy have played, and scored, more of late.
HE SAID IT
“I don’t think anybody wants to play us right now.” – Perrantes.
Virginia entered the game leading the nation in scoring defense (55.3 ppg), and during its winning streak, has held North Carolina State (55), No. 5 North Carolina (43) and Pittsburgh (42) to an average of 46.7 points. … The Cavaliers forced 14 turnovers and outscored the Panthers 27-0 off takeaways. Virginia turned it over just seven times. … The Cavaliers finished 11 for 22 on 3-pointers. Pitt was 4 for 20.
Both teams will play next in the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, New York.
More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org
Follow Hank on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr