NEW YORK (AP) — The difference between how Virginia has played during its four-game winning streak as opposed to how it played during the four-game losing streak that preceded it is not that drastic.
Coach Tony Bennett said the Cavaliers have made a few adjustments. They have been hitting a few more shots and taking a little better care of the ball since their February slump. And of course, this being Virginia, there is no problem that can't be solved with defense — especially at this time of the year.
"Our defense is built for March because we're going to play teams with high-powered offenses, but as long as our defense is there night in and night out, we'll be able to give ourselves a good shot to win games," London Perrantes said.
Perrantes scored 13 points in the second half to help No. 21 Virginia pull away for a 75-63 victory against Pittsburgh in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament on Wednesday night.
The sixth-seeded Cavaliers (22-9) are in the ACC quarterfinals for the sixth straight season and meet third-seeded and No. 22 Notre Dame at Barclays Center on Thursday night.
Jamel Artis led Pitt (16-17) with 18 points and Michael Young had 14. The two seniors were benched for the first 10 minutes of the Panthers' regular-season finale loss to Virginia on Saturday by coach Kevin Stallings.
Just four days after scoring just 42 points against the Cavaliers, Pitt surpassed that number with 13:08 minutes left on a dunk by Sheldon Jeter that cut Virginia's lead to 44-43.
"We certainly had the momentum at that point," Stallings said.
That was as good as it got for the Panthers.
Perrantes made his first 3-pointer of the game with 8:15 left in the second half to make it 54-46. After Artis responded with a 3, Perrantes made it two in a row from long range in a span of 56 seconds.
"It felt like it was one and then it seemed like it was seven or eight real quickly there," Stallings said.
Perrantes, the only senior in Virginia's rotation, is now the first Cavaliers player to advance in four consecutive ACC Tournaments.
"Obviously, it's going to be a grind, but like we said before, our program is built for stuff like this," Perrantes said.
Freshman Kyle Guy scored 20 points to match a career high and carried the Cavaliers until Perrantes, who scored two points in the first half, heated up. Fellow freshman guard Ty Jerome scored 11 and had seven rebounds and four assists.
"They're not afraid of the moment," Bennett said of the newbies.
Mostly, the freshmen try to follow Perrantes' lead.
"Yeah, I basically just do whatever he tells me," Guy said. "So he's been a tremendous leader on and off the court, for me especially, and the rest of the guys. When he tells us that he loves us and he has confidence in us, it's really easy to play free."
Pitt: Hard to believe after the Panthers managed only 105 points in losing twice in four days to Virginia, but this same team hung 88 on the Cavaliers — the most by any Virginia opponent — in early January. Pitt was 12-3 at that point, but with only two reliable scorers (Artis and Young) the offense dried up in ACC play and the Panthers hit the skids.
Virginia: During their four-game slump, Virginia's opponents shot 43.5 percent from the floor. In the four games since, Pitt at 40 percent was the only opponent to crack 35.
Pitt: The Panthers are done for the season, finishing with a losing record for the first time since 1999-00.
Virginia: The Cavaliers are 5-0 against Notre Dame since the Fighting Irish joined the ACC in 2014, including a victory in South Bend, Indiana, this season.
"Obviously, our defense is a huge part," Perrantes said. "They can spread the floor, just like Pitt. But it gives people trouble. As long as we hang our head on our defense, I guess that's why we've been having a good record with them."
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