London Perrantes Proves Again Why He’s Mr. Indispensable

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 7th, 2014

It’s easy to look at the team Tony Bennett has put together at Virginia and say that his players are interchangeable. After all, his defense-first philosophy and the offensive identity of continually working for the best available shot don’t seem individual-specific. One could point to the program’s rise and success under Bennett as further evidence of that theory, as Virginia looks every bit as good in starting 9-0 this season as last year’s ACC champion, despite some key personnel losses. Even when the Cavaliers were down two starters (including the team’s leading scorer, Justin Anderson) in a tough road game against Maryland on Wednesday night, Virginia still ran away to a 76-65 win.

London Perrantes proved once again why Virginia can't succeed without him (USAToday Sports)

London Perrantes proved once again why Virginia can’t succeed without him (USAToday Sports)

But the truth is that Virginia does have an indispensable player: London Perrantes. The sophomore point guard is the heady, sure-handed player that makes this team capable of playing a variety of styles and still have a chance to beat anyone. That was obvious in the Cavaliers’ emphatic 74-57 defeat of rival VCU in Richmond on Saturday. The Rams once again employed their HAVOC defense, and any team facing their relentless full-court gauntlet needs an efficient, smart ball-handler to navigate through it. On Saturday, Perrantes deftly kept the ball moving and expertly broke through the press time and time again, often leading to dunks or fouls in transition as a result.

Perrantes shook off some early mistakes as he adjusted to the atypical defense, finishing the game with nine assists to just three turnovers. His ability to stay calm has been well-documented, but it was amazing to watch him stay completely unrattled while facing VCU’s Briante Weber, perhaps the top on-ball defender in the nation. And the biggest shot in the game wasn’t hit by Anderson or preseason All-ACC selection Malcolm Brogdon, but Perrantes. At the 5:51 mark, VCU had cut Virginia’s lead to a mere four points before the point guard hit a late shot clock jumper. That sparked a 15-0 closing run that sealed the game.

Perrantes’ ability to keep this machine humming is the one thing that Virginia can’t replicate with another player. Devon Hall is a talented freshman, but still not consistent enough with the ball in his hands to play heavy minutes. Brogdon does a decent job when he’s asked to run the offense, but is more likely than Perrantes to look for his own shot. The sophomore is who finds everyone in the spot where they like, whether it’s Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill on the low blocks, Anderson on the wing, or Brogdon at the top of the key. The team can find shooting from a number of players, and the frontcourt looked just fine with Tobey stepping in for the injured Darion Atkins. Perrantes’ effect on this team, however, cannot be replaced.

The one critique of Perrantes’ game this year may have started to remedy itself in yesterday’s match-up. In our preview article, we noted that Perrantes’ shooting and scoring numbers have been putrid through eight games: 3.0 PPG on 22.7 percent shooting from the field. But yesterday he hit two timely jumpers that forced the Rams to honor his shot, finishing with six points on 3-of-6 shooting. Virginia doesn’t need him to score much, but he needs to remain a viable threat to open avenues for the scorers who surround him.

Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell gone from last year’s team? No problem; just move Atkins and Anderson into the starting lineup and win your first nine games. Lose Anderson to injury in a tough test on the road? Simply ask Brogdon to take over and become the primary scorer (he notched 18 in the win over Maryland). Atkins isn’t cleared to play because of his back injury against VCU? Just insert the 6’11” Tobey into the starting rotation. But lose Perrantes for any extended period of time? Then, Virginia no longer is one of the top 10 teams in the nation.

Lathan Wells (77 Posts)

A 30-year old unabashed college basketball fan, I currently reside in Richmond, Virginia. I especially enjoy following the ACC and the local teams, VCU and the University of Richmond. I hope to continue my journalistic pursuits in the sports arena full-time in the future, but in the meantime I am really enjoying covering the greatest sport there is for RTC. Follow me on Twitter @prohibitivefav.

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