In recent years, there haven’t been too many times where the Virginia Cavaliers have been able to enjoy a relatively easy win over the North Carolina Tar Heels. But it happened Monday night, as Virginia improved to 5-1 in the ACC (14-5 overall) with a 76-61 victory over the Tar Heels in Charlottesville. Virginia led almost throughout, and had better than a 20-point lead at times in the second half.
A big key for the win Monday and Virginia’s increased effectiveness on offense was the play of freshman point guard London Perrantes. The 6-foot-2 freshman from Los Angeles, like many freshmen, has taken time to get adjusted to head coach Tony Bennett‘s offensive system. A system that preaches patience and spacing and where sometimes, 55 or 60 points are about the limit to what the Cavaliers are going to get on any given night.
But if you take out Virginia’s unlucky 69-65 loss at Duke last Monday, the Cavaliers are averaging 76 points per game in their last four, all conference wins. UVA hit that number on the nose Monday night in large part due to an unselfish performance from Perrantes. The freshman had eight assists in the first half alone, and had some believing he might threaten the school record of 14. Perrantes capped of his excellent first-half performance by hitting a three-pointer with 32 seconds left that gave Virginia a 38-29 halftime lead.
Perrantes only added one assist in the second half but by that point, the damage was done. Perrantes finished with eight points, nine assists, two steals and perhaps most importantly, just one turnover. With Perrantes running the point, the Cavaliers only turned the ball over eight times the whole game.
With Perrantes feeling more comfortable running the Virginia offense, knowing who needs to get the ball where, and taking care of it by not turning over, Virginia is definitely a better team now than it was at the start of the season. Before Monday night, Perrantes hadn’t had more than six assists in a game (that came in an early-season win over Liberty), and he was only averaging 3.8 ppg in Virginia’s last four games.
If Perrantes continues to have this much of a positive impact on the Cavaliers’ offense, it’s only going to mean more open looks for All-ACC swingman Joe Harris (16 points, four assists tonight), Malcolm Brogdon (16 points, seven rebounds, three assists) and post players Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey. Given how well the Cavaliers play defense most nights, increased efficiency on offense, led by Perrantes, will make Virginia that much more dangerous at the top of the ACC.