Men’s basketball ends season with loss to Florida
No. 5 seeded Virginia falls against No. 4 Gators in round of 32
No. 5 seed Virginia couldn’t put together a solid offensive performance against No. 4 seeded Florida, and saw its season slip away in the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament with a 65-39 loss. The 39 points the Cavaliers (23-11, 11-7 ACC) scored were their lowest point total of the season. The Gators (26-8, 14-4 SEC) will move onto the Sweet Sixteen next and face No. 8 seed Wisconsin at Madison Square Garden.
While Virginia made an appearance in the round of 32 for the fourth straight season, it was hoping to make it to the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in four years. The Cavaliers edged out UNC-Wilmington in the first round of the tournament, but offensive struggles that plagued the team during a four game losing skid in the regular season reappeared against Florida Saturday night.
“You know, there's a gap. We've got to improve our program,” coach Tony Bennett said. “They accomplished some stuff this year, but we've got to get better, and we've got to continue to recruit well [and] continue to develop players well.”
Before Bennett can work on improving his program, however, he’ll have to come to terms with losing senior point guard London Perrantes, who appeared in his last game as a Cavalier.
“Yeah, obviously I've got to step back from it and look at the past four years,” Perrantes said. “I did some things that I could be proud of, but right now, obviously it's tough.”
Perrantes provided offensive firepower for the Cavaliers Thursday, tallying 24 points to lead Virginia to a victory over UNC-Wilmington. He struggled offensively Saturday night against the Gators, shooting two of 12 and making two free throws to score six points. Junior guard Marial Shayok was also unable to get anything going offensively after an impressive offensive showing against the Seahawks. Shayok shot two-of-nine to record seven points.
“Florida played a heck of a defensive game, and we were very poor offensively,” Bennett said. “They got some length behind — London and I talked about it. That quickness up front and that length behind protecting the rim was very challenging for us, and we didn't shoot it well when we got some looks. That's what happens.”
The Gators held Virginia to a 29.6 field goal shooting percentage, and the team collectively shot one for 15 from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers scored just 17 points in the first half — good for the lowest points in a half in NCAA Tournament history for Virginia. Not a single Cavalier reached a double digit point total, and redshirt freshman forward Mamadi Diakite led Virginia in scoring with nine points. Sophomore center Jack Salt followed closely behind with eight points and 10 rebounds.
“[Salt] battled, and [Diakite] was good early ... But there is a reason why Florida in defensive efficiency is in the top five in the country,” Bennett said. “They really defend. You've got to make some shots.”
Virginia’s defense let up against Florida’s offense throughout the game. The Gators went on a 21-0 run through the first and second halves, which were the most consecutive points allowed by the Cavaliers all season. Junior forward Devin Robinson led Florida in scoring with 14 points. The Chesterfield, Va. native also recorded 11 rebounds to earn the fifth double-double of his career. Senior forward Justin Leon also tallied 14 points and nine rebounds for the Gators.
“It was a terrific win,” Florida coach Mike White said. “I'm really proud of these guys. It wasn't one guy individually. It was a collective effort to hold a 23-win ACC team to under 30 percent. These guys really, really guarded to give us a chance. We made some shots, of course. It's a big win for us.”
The loss brought flashbacks of the last time Virginia faced the Gators in the NCAA Tournament. The 39 points the Cavaliers scored were their lowest amount of points in an NCAA Tournament game. Ironically, the second least amount of points they scored in a tournament matchup came when they scored 45 points against Florida in 2012.
“Coach Bennett talked about it,” Perrantes said. “[The team is] going to have to come back, and if they want to get to that next level, it's going to — you've got to take this feeling and put the fuels to the fire and get back to work during the summer, during the off-season, so we don't — so they don't have this feeling again.”
However, Perrantes has a lot to be proud of looking back at his time at Virginia. He made his 134th career start, which is first all-time in program history, and finished his career as a Cavalier with 1,225 points.
Perrantes will be scoping out his his future career prospects, while the rest of the team will go back to the drawing board looking ahead to next season.
“I know they'll be back,” Perrantes said. “We've got some good young talent, and coach Bennett is a genius behind it. So, they'll get back to work, and they'll be back for sure.”