Lon­don Per­rantes walks off a win­ner in Vir­ginia’s home fi­nale.

Se­nior helps Cavs coast to third straight vic­tory

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

charlottesville — Love poured out of the stands at John Paul Jones Arena on Satur­day, be­gin­ning with a stand­ing ova­tion 15 min­utes be­fore tip-off when Lon­don Per­rantes stepped on court for his se­nior day cer­e­mony, three younger broth­ers by his side and his misty-eyed mother Ka­rina’s hand clasped tightly in his own.

It con­tin­ued flow­ing all af­ter­noon for the Vir­ginia men’s bas­ket­ball team’s only schol­ar­ship se­nior, gush­ing from all cor­ners as fans roared not just for Per­rantes’s four three-point­ers but also for his most mun­dane moves. It filled up the arena and had nowhere else to go but the back tun­nels that led to the locker rooms, where Per­rantes and Vir­ginia Coach Tony Ben­nett walked arm in arm at the end of the Cava­liers’ 67-42 rout of Pittsburgh.

“When he came out of the game,” Ben­nett said, “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.’ ”

Satur­day was Per­rantes’s 130th ca­reer start at Vir­ginia, where he first ap­peared in the start­ing lineup three games into his fresh­man year. The point guard’s con­tri­bu­tions are al­most un­par­al­leled in Ben­nett’s ten­ure. The se­nior has the pro­gram on the verge of its fourth con­sec­u­tive NCAA tournament ap­pear­ance for the first time since the year af­ter the Ralph Samp­son era ended in the early 1980s. Satur­day’s vic­tory was his 106th at Vir­ginia, five short of the pro­gram record.

As he waited un­til all of his other play­ers had passed to walk off the floor with Per­rantes, Ben­nett thought of his own se­nior day, when his fa­ther and coach, Dick Ben­nett, per­formed the same rit­ual.

“That’s the last thing we did my last game at Green Bay,” Ben­nett said. “And I waited for Lon­don and I said to him, ‘I want to walk off this court with you, with my arm around you.’ . . . That brought me great joy to be able to do that, just as a mem­ory of mine from my play­ing days and to do that with Lon­don. Prob­a­bly meant more to me than to him.”

“It was cool,” Per­rantes said. “Walk­ing off the floor with Coach Ben­nett was huge. He gave me this op­por­tu­nity; with­out him, I wouldn’t be here.”

The se­nior led the 23rd-ranked Cava­liers (22-9, 11-7 ACC) with 22 points. The win was the Cava­liers’ third straight and locked them into the No. 6 seed for the ACC tournament, which will be­gin Tues­day in Brook­lyn. The Cava­liers have a bye into the sec­ond round and will open play at 9 p.m. Wed­nes­day against Ge­or­gia Tech or Pittsburgh.

“It’s high,” Per­rantes said when asked about the team’s con­fi­dence look­ing ahead to the con­fer­ence tournament. “I don’t think any­one wants to play us right now.”

That was ev­i­dent in the plod­ding gait of Pittsburgh (15-16, 4-14), which on Satur­day hardly re­sem­bled the team that over­pow­ered Vir­ginia, 88-76, in over­time Jan. 4.

Jamel Ar­tis and Michael Young, who scored a com­bined 43 points against the Cava­liers in the teams’ pre­vi­ous meet­ing, were held out of the first 10 min­utes of Satur­day’s game af­ter they were late for the team’s morn­ing meet­ing.

The Pan­thers suf­fered for it, limp­ing to an 0-for-11 start from the field. Pittsburgh’s first field goal came with nine min­utes left un­til half­time, and it trailed 32-15 at in­ter­mis­sion, the fewest firsthalf points by any Vir­ginia op­po­nent this sea­son.

Young fin­ished with a teamhigh 14 points, and Ar­tis had four.

The Cava­liers, mean­while, had no trou­ble run­ning their of­fense. Vir­ginia shot 43.5 per­cent from the field to Pittsburgh’s 33.3 per­cent and 50 per­cent from be­yond the three-point line to the Pan­thers’ 20 per­cent. Pittsburgh gave up 27 points off 15 turnovers.

Fresh­man point guard Ty Jerome was the only other Cav­a­lier to score in dou­ble fig­ures, adding 13 on 5-for-9 shoot­ing, in­clud­ing three three-point­ers. In a bit of sym­bol­ism Per­rantes couldn’t ig­nore, it was Jerome who fed Per­rantes the ball on the se­nior’s sec­ond-to-last three-pointer of the night and fresh­man guard Kyle Guy who as­sisted Per­rantes’s fi­nal shot, also a three­p­ointer, be­fore Ben­nett pulled him.

“As Ty passed me the ball and I shot it, I was like, ‘This is weird. I think it’s my time to go now,’ ” Per­rantes said. But he had changed his mind by the time he met his suc­ces­sor at mid­court for a long em­brace.

“I said, ‘It’s not yours yet. It’s not your pro­gram yet. I still got some games left to play.’ ”

CHET STRANGE/GETTY IM­AGES

Guard Lon­don Per­rantes, who scored 22 points Satur­day, has been part of 106 wins for the Cava­liers.

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