By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Not until his fourth and final season of college basketball did London Perrantes, a point guard from Los Angeles, get to play for the University of Virginia in his home state of California.
That was last week in Berkeley, where the Cavaliers ended Cal’s 27-game home winning streak.
UVA freshman Kyle Guy won’t have to wait nearly as long to play in front of friends and family. The Wahoos open their ACC schedule Wednesday night in this city, which is across the Ohio River from Indiana and less than a two-hour drive from Guy’s hometown of Indianapolis.
At 7 o’clock, in a game ESPN2 will televise, No. 12 Virginia (10-1) meets No. 6 Louisville (11-1) at the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center.
“There should be a lot of people there for me,” Guy said Tuesday at John Paul Jones Arena. “I think basically everyone in my family that’s in town is coming. My grandparents are vacationing in Arizona, which is not too shabby.”
A McDonald’s All-American last season at Lawrence Central High School, Guy has yet to start a game for the `Hoos. But he’s second on the team in scoring (9.4 ppg) and has established himself as the team’s best shooter.
From 3-point range, Guy has hit 18 of 30 attempts (60 percent). He’s shooting 56.5 percent from the floor overall (and 78.9 percent from the line).
“I’ve got the utmost faith in his jump shot,” Perrantes said after Guy scored a game-high 17 points in UVA’s 56-52 win over Cal at Haas Pavilion.
“Offensively, he stretches the defense,” head coach Tony Bennett said. “When he rises up and shoots, it looks good most of the time.”
Guy has not been as proficient at the other end of the floor, in part because he carries about 165 pounds on his 6-3 frame.
“His problem is, he’s light,” Virginia assistant coach Brad Soderberg said. “It’s not that he’s not quick. It’s not that he doesn’t understand the system. It’s not that he’s not trying. It’s just that he’s light. So if a guy just bull-rushes him to the basket, it’s very hard for Kyle, as it would be for anybody that’s a buck-65.
“However, it’s refreshing to watch him on offense. He shoots up a beautiful ball, and he’s got a scorer’s mentality. Nothing seems to bother him offensively.”
Bennett noted on a teleconference Monday that many college freshmen struggle on defense.
“The challenge for most players is how continuous you have to be defensively,” Bennett said. “You can’t rest.”
That’s especially true in the Cavaliers’ Pack-Line defense, in which a lapse by one player can cause the entire unit to break down. And so Guy is striving to shore up his defensive deficiencies.
“I feel I can get better every single day,” he said, “just by grinding every day in practice, trying to get my anticipation better and make my reads a little bit quicker, so I’m not one step behind.
“My weight is kind of an issue, but if I can stand guys up and keep them in front of me, that won’t be a problem.”
Bennett said: “Kyle came in well-coached … so he’s had a lot of experiences. But even with all those experiences, it’s still an adjustment.
Guy has never attended a game at Louisville’s arena, let alone played there, “so I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about it.”
UVA and Louisville play a home-and-home series each season. In their 2015-16 meeting at the Yum! Center, the Cavaliers never trailed in a 63-47 win before a stunned crowd of 21,714.
“Great atmosphere,” Soderberg recalled Tuesday. “In fact, I’m glad we kind of silenced [Louisville’s fans] early in that game. You can just feel how loud that place could get if you let things get out of control.”
Soderberg prepared the scouting report for Wednesday night’s game. Not surprisingly, he’s impressed with the Cardinals, who are coming off a 73-70 win over then-No. 6 Kentucky in Louisville.
“They’re rolling right now,” Soderberg said. “Beating Kentucky a couple days ago puts them in a pretty good mood, and their confidence is high. So we’re going to have our hands full, to say the least.”
Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino has stocked his roster with long, athletic players, and Louisville is averaging seven blocked shots a game. The Cardinals haven’t always shot well this season, but they’ve held opponents to 36.2-percent accuracy from the floor.
“I just think defensively they’re better than they were a year ago,” Soderberg said.
Virginia’s ACC home opener is Saturday against No. 20 Florida State at JPJ. The Cavaliers would like to return to Charlottesville on a four-game winning streak. For that to happen, Soderberg said, Virginia must excel in several areas Wednesday night.
“One is, we simply can’t let [the Cardinals] get transition baskets, because that’s when they’re at their best,” Soderberg said. “Related to that, they get a lot of their transition baskets by forcing turnovers,” so Virginia has to take care of the ball.
“And then finally,” Soderberg said, “we have to do a really good job keeping them off the glass, because they’re longer than us. I think they have two 7-footers, two 6-11 guys and then another 6-10 guy coming off the bench. It’s going to be a challenge, just to prevent them from getting multiple shots per possession.”
Above all, Bennett told his players at practice Tuesday, the Cavaliers must match the Cardinals’ intensity.
“Fellas, they’re coming at you,” Bennett said. “They’re coming at you on the glass, and they’re coming at you in transition. A sense of urgency will be absolutely required all game long … You won’t be perfect, but don’t back down.”
Guy committed to UVA in October 2014. He could have chosen a school closer to Indianapolis, but the lure of the ACC played a major role in his decision.
“It was probably the second-biggest draw behind Coach Bennett himself,” Guy said. “The Big Ten is good also, but there’s just something about the ACC.”