**Written by HooNation.com contrubutor Caroline Darney**
They only led against the California Bears for 32 seconds, but the Virginia Cavaliers managed to come away with a thrilling 63-62 victory in overtime.
London Perrantes buried a three pointer, his second of the night, with just ten seconds remaining to give Virginia the win.
“It wasn’t too clean,” Perrantes said of the shot after the game. “I just felt like if I had a little bit of daylight I was going to let it go.”
Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon struggled from the field for most of the night, but hit a crucial three pointer with :55 left in overtime to pull the Cavaliers to within two. A stop on the defensive end set up the climactic final possession.
Perrantes finished with ten points on 4-for-9 shooting (2-for-3 from three) with six assists, three rebounds, one steal and no turnovers.
Once again the Cavaliers got off to a slow start, something they have struggled with over the last couple seasons.
“We didn’t start well.” Head Coach Tony Bennett stated. “We had a hard time. We were a little impatient offensively and weren’t dialed in defensively.”
Neither Brogdon nor Anthony Gill made a field goal in the first half, combining to go 0-for-8. Gill came on strong in the second stanza, shooting 50% (5-for-10) and finishing with thirteen second half points. He amassed 17 total points, six rebounds, one block, and went a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line.
Cal’s Jaylen Brown led all scorers with 18 points, and Ivan Rabb commanded the boards with 12 total rebounds. The Golden Bears held their biggest lead, 11, with 13:47 to play in the half, but Virginia clamped down on defense before finally tying the game at 50 with a jumper from Gill. With 1:01 remaining in regular time, Virginia took their first lead of the game after converting an Isaiah Wilkins steal into a dunk by Darius Wilkins, but two Jaylen Brown free throws knotted it back up at 52.
Brown had the chance to win the game for Cal on the last possession in the second half, but Brogdon’s quick hands knocked the ball away to force extra time.
Cuonzo Martin’s Cal squad looked like they had the game put away with a 62-57 lead with 1:47 to play in OT.
“Tough one. Tough one down the stretch.” Martin commented following the loss. “I give those guys [Virginia] credit. Tremendous job executing down the stretch, making plays and winning the basketball game. I thought both teams fought, both teams played hard, both teams competed, executed.”
While the Cavaliers never quit and got production from proven leaders in Brogdon and Perrantes, it was first year Jarred Reuter who kept Virginia in the game in the first half when the offense was stagnating.
Fellow big man Gill was impressed with Reuter’s game.
“The guys that were playing that got more minutes in the past, we really weren’t doing what we needed to do and Jarred, hat off to him, because he just played great tonight.”
Reuter scored seven of Virginia’s first 14 points and finished with a career-high 11 points for the game.
The Cavaliers finished shooting 38.9% from the field, but went 7-for-12 (58.3%) from beyond the arc.
Although the students had mostly gone home for the holidays and Christmas was just a mere three days away, Virginia fans came out in droves, and the 13,265 in attendance were treated to an exciting game.
Both Coach Bennett and the players recognize how important the fans were during the comeback and overtime.
“The crowd was phenomenal,” said Bennett. “It really was. I know a lot of the students weren’t here, but I tell you what, it was booming in there.”
Perrantes agreed, crediting the crowd for giving the team an extra boost at the end.
“Huge. It was huge. It kept us going.”
Fifth year senior Malcolm Brogdon expected the Virginia faithful to be loud, simply saying, “...our fans are committed. We have the best fanbase in the country.”
Up next, Virginia will host Oakland on December 30th in their last non-conference game. Oakland, who has already beaten Washington, fell to top-ranked Michigan State in overtime on Tuesday evening.