By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Around 3 p.m. Friday, a charter bus will pull away from the loading dock at John Paul Jones Arena and head for Raleigh, North Carolina.
For London Perrantes, this will be the final regular-season road trip of his illustrious University of Virginia basketball career. Where did the years go?
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Perrantes said Thursday afternoon after practice at JPJ.
UVA’s only senior, the 6-2 Perrantes is in the twilight of a college career in which he’s started 127 games. The Cavaliers have won the large majority of those games, but they find themselves in unfamiliar territory as Perrantes’ final postseason approaches.
For the first time since 2009-10, the Wahoos’ first season under head coach Tony Bennett, they’ve lost four games in a row.
“Some guys are frustrated,” redshirt junior Devon Hall said, “and rightfully so. But we’re a tight-knit unit, so we’re getting guys back up and getting guys back on their feet and not trying to have people all down and out, because we’ve got more games to play.”
UVA’s skid has coincided with the most prolonged shooting slump of Perrantes’ college career. Over the past four games, he’s 16 of 58 from the floor overall and 5 of 28 from 3-point range.
Desperate times can call for desperate measures, and so Perrantes showed up clean-shaven at practice Thursday. Gone was the beard he’s worn for much of his time at UVA.
“Just doing something new,” Perrantes said, smiling. “It’ll be back soon.”
At noon Saturday, No. 18 Virginia (18-9 overall, 8-7 ACC) takes on NC State (15-14, 4-12) at PNC Arena in Raleigh. For the `Hoos, this will be their first game since Monday night, when they lost 54-48 in overtime to Miami at JPJ.
Perrantes wasn’t the only Cavalier whose shots were off the mark against the Hurricanes. Virginia made only 15 of 51 field-goal attempts Monday night.
“We’re obviously trying to get shots up in practice,” Perrantes said, “but a huge thing, especially for me, is just getting rest. I can shoot the ball. I’m not worried about that. I just need to get my rest in, especially with how many minutes I’ve played [recently].
Perrantes, who played 40 minutes against Miami, continues to lead the Cavaliers in scoring (12.3 ppg), 3-pointers attempted (139) and made (51), free throws attempted (69) and made (55), and assists (3.7 per game).
“I definitely feel like I carry a lot of pressure on my shoulders,” Perrantes said, “but any leader on a team is going to feel that way.”
As a freshman, Perrantes helped the `Hoos capture the ACC tournament title for the first time since 1975-76. With Perrantes at the point, Virginia advanced to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet Sixteen in 2013-14, to the second round in 2015-16, and to the Elite Eight last season.
He came east from his native Los Angeles in 2013 as an unheralded recruit. He wasn’t sure what to expect in Charlottesville, but he’s thrived in a new environment.
“I think to this day I feel like I’m still the same person that I came in as, but I know for a fact that that’s not the case,” Perrantes said. “This city has done so much for me and done so much for my family. I never thought that I’d say this would be a second home for me. I thought I’d always be a California boy, but I guess you could say I’m a little bit Virginia, too.”
Three regular-season games remain for Virginia, which has dropped into a tie for seventh place in the ACC. The final two — Monday against No. 8 North Carolina and March 4 against Pittsburgh — are at JPJ.
“I’m not really thinking about it too much,” Perrantes said. “I’m just worried about trying to get the team back on track and trying to get wins underneath our belt going into tournament play. We’ve still got a little while to go, so we’ve got a couple games to make a big run. I’m really more excited about that. I’m not really looking forward to [Senior Day]. I’m just looking forward to cherishing these moments with the team.”
The Cavaliers shot poorly against Miami, but their defense generally was solid, and that encouraged Perrantes. He’s convinced UVA’s offense, which for much of the season has been a model of efficiency, will come around again.
“It’s going to happen,” he said. “Obviously we wish we could snap back into it quicker than we have, but we’ve just got to make sure that we keep encouraging each other and keep the confidence high. Shots are going to fall eventually. We’re too good of players for them not to.
“I don’t like losing at all, and [dropping] these four games was tough, but I’m just trying to stay positive and keep the team positive.”
Hall said: “It’s frustrating, and it is hard to just be able to get everybody and dig ourselves out of the hole we put ourselves in, but we have to find a way. I think that we’re going to find a way.”
ON THE HOME FRONT: Three UVA teams are competing in Charlottesville this weekend.
In baseball, 13th-ranked UVA (4-0) hosts Rutgers (1-2) in a three-game series at Davenport Field. The series opener, which starts Friday at 4 p.m., can be seen online on ACC Network Extra, which is available to ESPN3 subscribers through WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
In women’s lacrosse, UVA (1-1) hosts No. 13 Princeton (1-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Klöckner Stadium. This game will be on available on ACC Network Extra, too.
The Cavaliers are coming off a dramatic win over Richmond. Freshman Sammy Mueller scored six goals, including two in the final minute, to help Virginia rally for a 15-14 win over the Spiders in Richmond.
In women’s basketball, UVA (18-10, 7-8) closes the regular season Sunday at 2 p.m. against No. 18 NC State (21-7, 11-4) at John Paul Jones Arena. For fans who can’t make it to JPJ, the game will be available on ACC Network Extra.
This game is crucial for a Virginia team looking to bolster its NCAA tournament credentials. The Wahoos lost 66-55 at No. 14 Louisville on Thursday night. Senior guard Breyana Mason matched her season high with 19 points to lead Virginia against the Cardinals.
Mason, UVA’s leading scorer (10.2 ppg), will be honored before the game Sunday in a Senior Day ceremony.
The regular-season finale will be noteworthy for another reason: This is the Cavaliers’ #Play4Kay game, and fans are encouraged to wear pink to help promote breast cancer awareness.