Senior guard London Perrantes scored 24 and junior guard Marial Shayok scored 23 for the No. 5 Virginia Cavaliers (23-10) as they defeated the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks (29-6) 76-71 in a first-round NCAA tournament game in Orlando.
“That’s March Madness,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said. “That’s what it is with the way were down and fought back.”
The Cavaliers, a team that averages 66.6 points per game, scored 76 points to win. It was a pace they aren’t accustomed to and it was one that Seahawk head coach Kevin Keatts said he thought would work in his favor.
“I thought we had everything the way we wanted, obviously, when you talk about tempo,” Keatts said. “We wanted those guys to play faster than they normally do.
“The difference in the game was they made a couple plays towards the end and we missed a few chippies,” he continued.
UNC-Wilmington (UNCW) started the game on fire. Hot three-point shooting by senior guards Denzel Ingram and Ambrose Mosley aided the Wilmington into creating an early lead. At the 7:25 mark in the first half, Ingram hit a three-pointer to give the Seahawks their largest lead of the half at 26-11.
Virginia then went small and it changed the complexion of the game. Virginia, led by Shayok’s 11 first-half points, proceeded to go on a 19-3 run to give Virginia a 30-29 lead at the half.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett knew his team was going to have to go small, but even he was a little surprised at having to play a five-guard lineup.
“It was a scramble game,” Bennett said. “I teased our guys, ‘I’m glad we worked on our five-guard lineup all week in practice.’”
The second half was the Perrantes show as he scored 19 of his 24 in that second stanza. He helped Virginia to start fast and stay ahead for much of the half. The Cavaliers were even able to take a 10-point lead with 7:57 left in the half.
UNCW would scratch and claw to stay in the game and got the lead down to two at 73-71 with :53 seconds remaining. Shayok would hit a clutch jumper with :25 seconds left to ice the game.
Perrantes 24 and Shayok’s 23 were the top scoring marks for Virginia. Senior guard Chris Flemmings scored 18 to keep pace with Ingram’s 17 to lead UNCW.
The win was Virginia’s fourth consecutive in the first round. The Cavaliers will play the winner of No. 13 East Tennessee St vs. No. 4 Florida.