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Jan. 5, 2016

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BLACKSBURG — Midnight was approaching when the University of Virginia men’s basketball team boarded its bus outside Cassell Coliseum late Monday and headed back to Charlottesville.

The trip home gave the fourth-ranked Cavaliers plenty of time to reflect on a disappointing performance. On a night when they were looking to stretch their winning streak over Virginia Tech to eight games, the Wahoos instead stumbled.

“We weren’t sharp,” head coach Tony Bennett said. “We weren’t ready.”

Even so, the `Hoos (12-2 overall, 1-1 ACC) nearly pulled off a stunning comeback. After trailing by 11 with two minutes to play, Virginia had the ball in the final seconds with a chance to force overtime — or take the lead on a 3-pointer — but a controversial no-call on a London Perrantes drive allowed the Hokies to escape with a 70-68 victory.

“We didn’t deserve to win that game, though we had a chance, and it would have been nice to at least be at the line to try to send it to overtime,” Bennett said. “Credit to Virginia Tech for making some tough shots and getting on the glass and doing some [good] things, but when you guard like that and can’t come up with stops, on the road you’re not just going to outscore people. And certainly they took it to us.”

Especially painful for the Cavaliers, who came in on an 11-game winning streak, was the manner in which they lost. The Hokies (10-5, 2-0) shot 57.7 percent from the floor in the second half, and when they needed a basket, they were usually able to get one.

“We couldn’t come up with a stop,” Bennett said.

Four players scored in double figures for the Hokies, who had dropped five straight to Virginia in Blacksburg. None hurt UVA more than junior forward Zach LeDay, a 6-7 transfer from South Florida.

LeDay entered the game shooting 16.7 percent (2 for 12) from 3-point range. He was 3 for 4 from beyond the arc Monday night and finished with a team-high 22 points. Overall, Virginia Tech was 9 for 17 from long range. Twice the Hokies capitalized on UVA lapses to hit wide-open 3-pointers after inbounding the ball from the baseline.

“We pride ourselves on our defense,” Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon said, “so we know at some point we’re going to get a stop, and we didn’t tonight when we needed to. What we pride ourselves on the most really let us down tonight.”

Not only were the Hokies hot from the perimeter, they outscored Virginia 26-22 in the paint.

“I was ticked off [about] the stuff they got at the rim,” Bennett said. “They kept getting it. That’s not good.”

Compounding Virginia’s woes was its carelessness with the ball. UVA, which came in averaging 8.5 turnovers per game, had 16 against the Hokies, who turned those mistakes into 26 points.

“We just did not have our best game,” Bennett said, “and when you talk about being loose with the ball like that, your defense has got to hold you in there, especially on the road. And our defense couldn’t hold us in there. What held us in there was we got hot from [3-point range] and were just sort of hoping they would miss, and that’s a bad feeling as a team and a coach.”

As has happened several times this season, the `Hoos started slowly, and they trailed 26-21 at the break.

“I don’t think we came out with the right energy,” Brogdon said, an assessment with which Virginia’s other fifth-year senior, forward Anthony Gill, agreed.

Tech “came out ready to go, and we didn’t,” Gill said.

The Hokies might have won going away if not for Perrantes’ spectacular shooting. The 6-2 junior from Los Angeles hit 6 for 7 shots from beyond the arc in the second half to keep the Cavaliers in the game.

Perrantes, whose previous career high was five treys, made seven (on nine attempts) Monday night.

“I was just in a zone,” he said. “I came out the second half and wanted to be more aggressive. My teammates got me the ball in the right position and I shot it with a lot of confidence.”

Class is not in session at Virginia Tech, and the game drew only 6,157 fans to Cassell Coliseum, which seats nearly 10,000. With few students in attendance, the home fans were subdued for much of the game, but they roared when an 8-0 run put the Hokies up 67-56 with 2:09 left.

Virginia did its best to quiet them. Perrantes’ seventh 3-pointer made it 67-59 with 1:55 left, and then a midrange jumper by sophomore forward Isaiah Wilkins pulled the `Hoos to 67-61.

After Tech made 1 of 2 from the line, the Cavaliers kept coming. Gill (17 points, eight rebounds, three assists) scored on a drive to make it a five-point game. He followed that with the first 3-pointer of his Virginia career — Gill made 11 treys as a South Carolina freshman in 2011-12 — and suddenly it was 68-66 with 18.7 seconds to play.

With 8.5 seconds left, Brogdon pulled Virginia to 69-68 with two free throws, and the Hokies’ fans grew even more anxious. Junior guard Seth Allen, a transfer from Maryland, hit 1 of 2 from the line with 8.1 seconds remaining, after which Virginia pushed the ball up the court.

Brogdon passed to Perrantes, who caught the ball across midcourt in front of the Virginia bench. Perrantes drove from the left wing and appeared to be fouled by Tech guard Devin Wilson, but there was no whistle.

Perrantes continued toward the basket and, along the left baseline, went up for a contested layup. LeDay, who was credited with a blocked shot, appeared to come down with his arm on Perrantes’ head. Again, however, no foul was called, and the Hokies survived.

“I have no comment [about] that,” Perrantes said when asked about the sequence. “It is what it is. The game’s over.”

Brogdon said: “He might have gotten fouled, but we shouldn’t have been in that situation.”

On a night when the Cavaliers’ bench contributed only eight points, Perrantes finished with a season-high 22. Brogdon added 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists and one steal, but he also had a team-high four turnovers. Gill had three turnovers, and three other Virginia players had two apiece.

“I always talk about [how] you’ve got to have effort and execution,” Bennett said. “I didn’t think we were good enough in either area.”

Brogdon said: “This means we have a ways to go and a lot to work on.”

Virginia will address those issues in practice this week before heading back out on the road. At 2 p.m. Saturday, UVA meets Georgia Tech (10-4, 0-1) in Atlanta.

“Either we’re going to learn from this,” Bennett said, “or we’re going to continue to struggle.”

The loss, Gill said, was a “hit in the mouth, just letting us know that we’re not who we think we are. In order for us to be the team that we want to be, we’re going to have to be on our game every night.”

The Hokies visit John Paul Jones Arena on Feb. 9, so Virginia will have an opportunity to avenge this defeat.

“It was very frustrating not being able to get stops,” Perrantes said, “but there’s not much you can do it about now, other than go home, watch film, learn from it and get ready for Georgia Tech.”

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