Ten days ago, on November 29th, Virginia’s starting point guard London Perrantes had an appendectomy, which forced him to sit out the last two games, a road trip to Ohio State and a visit from William & Mary.
Perrantes did practice yesterday for the Cavaliers, and he got the start on Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic as No. 10 Virginia took on No. 14 West Virginia, but he spent the first 20 minutes of the game looking like a kid who was ten days removed from a surgical procedure.
At halftime, Perrantes had not even taken a shot from the floor in 12 minutes, finishing with one assists, two of Virginia’s 11 turnovers and two fouls. With two minutes left in the half, the ‘Hoos were down 35-23. They looked like they weren’t prepared to deal with the physicality of the intensity of West Virginia’s press and they struggled to deal with the motion that Bob Huggins’ team was able to create in a half court setting.
It was ugly.
And it was a completely different story in the final 20 minutes; well, the final 22 minutes, really. Virginia outscored the Mountaineers 47-19 after digging that 12-point deficit, leaving Madison Square Garden with a 70-54 win that looks a whole lot less competitive that it actually was.
There were a number of reasons for the change. The Cavaliers were finally able to hold onto the ball for long stretches of the second half, which allowed them to run their offense and control the tempo of the game. That vaunted Pack-Line defense finally got into a rhythm because the Cavaliers were able to force West Virginia to run half court offense, which is not their strong suit. All of that meant that the Mountaineers were unable to get into their press because they were unable to score consistently.
And it all came back to Perrantes, who finished the game with 13 points and four assists, shooting 5-for-6 from the floor and hitting three critical threes in the second half. His first three of the game gave Virginia the lead at 42-40, Virginia’s first lead since it was 4-2. It wasn’t just the assists or the shots he hit — although everyone of them seemed to come in a critical moment in the game — it was the presence and the confidence he played with. Makes you wonder just what Tony Bennett had to say to him at halftime.
I’ve said this quite a bit this season — when Fred VanVleet got injured and when Tyler Ulis missed time — but there are times where we don’t truly realize just how good or valuable a player is until they’re not actually on the floor. That’s true with Perrantes as well, and while he was on the floor for 12 minutes in the first half, it wasn’t the Perrantes that we’ve become accustomed to seeing over the last two years and change.
He’s not at the same level as the likes of VanVleet or Ulis, but he may be more valuable given the lack of a back-up point guard on UVA’s roster.
It showed against Ohio State, it showed against William & Mary and, on Tuesday night, when he spent 20 minutes barely there, it was perhaps more evident than in either of the two games he sat out.