Cava­liers breathe eas­ier af­ter they snap a four-game slide

VIR­GINIA 70, N.C. STATE 55

The Washington Post Sunday - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - BY AVA WAL­LACE ava.wal­lace@wash­post.com

raleigh, n.c. — London Per­rantes looked down at his open palms af­ter hit­ting his first three­p­ointer of the game Saturday. North Carolina State called a 30sec­ond time­out just af­ter his shot went in, giv­ing the Cava­liers a 13-point lead with more than five min­utes left un­til half­time, and Vir­ginia’s se­nior point guard took a few of those sec­onds to stare. The re­lief on his face was vis­i­ble from across the court.

“Fi­nally,” Per­rantes thought at the time. “It was good to see it go down, for sure.”

Vir­ginia breathed a deep sigh of re­lief Saturday as it ex­or­cised its shoot­ing demons and snapped a four-game los­ing streak with a 70-55 win over the Wolf­pack at PNC Arena. It had been al­most three weeks since the No. 18 Cava­liers (19-9, 9-7 ACC) played this freely, and Per­rantes wasn’t the only sat­is­fied player.

Vir­ginia took ad­van­tage of one of the loos­est de­fenses in the ACC to hit 11 of 16 three-point­ers and shoot 48.9 per­cent over­all. Dur­ing their skid, the Cava­liers shot 35.1 per­cent from the field, made 24 per­cent of their three-point­ers and, de­spite two over­time games, av­er­aged 58 points as postgame frus­tra­tion be­came the norm in the locker room.

On Saturday, Vir­ginia was all smiles.

“It was really sat­is­fy­ing to see shots like that,” ju­nior guard Devon Hall said. “I think it helps. It helps guys’ con­fi­dence to be able to see one go in.”

“It was back to nor­mal, guys goof­ing around, jok­ing, stuff like that,” ju­nior for­ward Isa­iah Wilkins chimed in from down the hall. “We kind of got a mon­key off our back.”

Fresh­man guard Kyle Guy led the resur­gence against the Wolf­pack (15-15, 4-13). He fin­ished with 19 points, in­clud­ing 5-for-7 shoot­ing from be­yond the arc, jump­start­ing the Cava­liers’ of­fense in the first half as Per­rantes took a fa­cil­i­ta­tor role. Hall added 18 points on 5-for-8 shoot­ing from the field.

Per­rantes fin­ished with a sea­son-high 10 as­sists, and set­tling back into his old role as pri­mary dis­trib­u­tor seemed to help the se­nior get out of his re­cent shoot­ing funk. He set a lan­guid pace on of­fense from the start, of­ten barely jog­ging the ball across half­court, and he made 5 of 10 from the floor for 16 points. He was 3 for 5 from the three-point line, the most he has made since an over­time loss at Vir­ginia Tech ear­lier this month.

“You have to be able to put the blin­ders on and say, ‘I’m just go­ing to keep plug­ging, find dif­fer­ent ways to im­pact,’ ” Vir­ginia Coach Tony Ben­nett said of his point guard. “That’s why I liked him cre­at­ing, him guard­ing [Den­nis Smith Jr.], then mak­ing the big shots. You just keep tak­ing them, if they’re good shots, without sec­ond guess­ing your­self.”

The win was the Cava­liers’ 10th straight against the Wolf­pack in the reg­u­lar sea­son. Smith, a 6-foot-3 fresh­man guard who is con­sid­ered a po­ten­tial top-five pick in this year’s NBA draft, led N.C. State with 13 points, nearly six be­low his av­er­age, and missed 10 of 14 shots from the field. The Wolf­pack had lit­tle in­side pres­ence, even when Vir­ginia used a four-guard lineup. The Cava­liers man­aged 20 points in the paint to N.C. State’s 12.

The Cava­liers were forced to play small be­cause of in­jury and ill­ness. Wilkins came off the bench for his first time this sea­son be­cause of strep throat and scored just four points in 20 min­utes. Cen­ter Jack Salt played 22 min­utes de­spite a bad back, and guard Dar­ius Thomp­son was held out of the game be­cause of a fever.

Ben­nett and his play­ers said the win felt like a re­set — and not just be­cause of a rejuvenated of­fense. Vir­ginia’s de­fense re­turned to form as well, hold­ing the Wolf­pack to 32.1 per­cent shoot­ing from the field and 25.9 per­cent on three-point­ers.

Ben­nett spoke of­ten dur­ing the los­ing streak about his team’s struggle to play up to the pro­gram’s ba­sic de­fen­sive ex­pec­ta­tions, but Saturday, the Cava­liers were pleased.

“We did get shots — but the big­gest thing was we kind of sti­fled them on the de­fen­sive end,” Hall said. “We really kept them out of the lane, which was really sat­is­fy­ing to see.”

The Cava­liers missed nine of their first 12 shots Saturday un­til Guy snapped them out it with four three-point­ers in the fi­nal 11 min­utes be­fore half­time.

His first three-poin­ter set off a chain re­ac­tion, and an­other from Hall with 9:23 left in the first half was all the Cava­liers needed to kick off a 15-0 run and take hold of the game for good. It was at that point — be­fore the 14-point lead at in­ter­mis­sion, be­fore a 19-point lead in the sec­ond half — that Vir­ginia felt like things were back to nor­mal.

“We were in the hud­dle,” Guy said with a grin, “and I just looked around and said, ‘I think we got our swag­ger back.’ ”

KARL B DEBLAKER/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vir­ginia ju­nior Devon Hall, who scored 18 points and went 5 for 8 from the field, draws a foul on N.C. State’s Ab­dul-Ma­lik Abu.

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