No. 12 Virginia uses big second half, holds off Cal 56-52
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Tony Bennett wanted to see his Virginia team come through in a close game when not everything went right. Across the country right before Christmas and the start of conference play, California provided the perfect test while trying to protect a school-record home winning streak.
Isaiah Wilkins scored a tiebreaking three-point play with 1:02 remaining, Mamadi Diakite added a key basket in the final minute, and the 12th-ranked Cavaliers held off Cal 56-52 on Wednesday night to snap the Golden Bears’ school-record 27-game home winning streak.
“That’s what we’ve been looking for,” Bennett said. “Both of these teams have lost some key firepower guys, so we’re still kind of forging our identities. In games like this, plays have to be made, big shots have to be made, big defensive plays, just key plays. You can only find that out by being in these spots.”
Kyle Guy scored 17 points, including seven straight during a big second-half run and two free throws with 15.9 seconds to play, and London Perrantes added 14 points.
The Cavaliers (10-1) won their third straight since their lone loss to West Virginia on Dec. 3 that snapped Virginia’s 24-game winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena.
“We talk about fighting every single day,” said Perrantes, who had close to 30 family and friends in the stands. “We just gutted that win out.”
Jabari Bird scored 15 points and Ivan Rabb had 12 rebounds and nine points in a matchup of two top defenses. The Golden Bears (9-3) had the fourth-longest home unbeaten run in the nation and were handed their first defeat at Haas Pavilion since Feb. 25, 2015, against Oregon.
While just the second meeting between the schools, both have been tight, defensive games. The fifth-ranked Cavaliers held off Cal 63-62 in overtime last season in Charlottesville.
“It was just one of those games where hopefully it revealed some good things we can build on,” Bennett said.
Virginia answered Cal’s early spurt out of halftime with a 17-2 run when the Cavaliers briefly went to a four-guard lineup.
But the Bears stayed in it until the waning moments.
Perrantes hit a 15-footer with 1:50 to go before Sam Singer’s three-point play moments later tied it at 49.
“We definitely felt we could have beat them, it doesn’t really matter about the ranking,” Rabb said. “We had a lot of positives but down the stretch we made a lot of silly mistakes ... stuff we did on our own to give the game away.”
With the Cavaliers’ large contingent of fans in Berkeley, they held Cal to 35.3 percent shooting and 5 for 23 on 3-point attempts. Virginia entered the game with the nation’s top scoring defense, allowing a school-record low 46.7 points per game. The Cavaliers have held nine of their first 11 opponents to 52 or fewer points.
Virginia: C Jack Salt had his family at the game from New Zealand. ... Cal was one of 13 games for the Cavaliers against teams in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
California: The Bears haven’t beaten a Top 25 opponent since Feb. 11, against No. 11 Oregon. ... Cal was trying for the best non-conference finish since the Bears went 11-2 under coach Mike Montgomery in 2008. ... Third-year coach Cuonzo Martin is 24-3 in non-conference play.
Boosting Perrantes’ already large cheering section were players from his high school, Crespi Carmelite from Southern California. They took up much of Section 7 in one upper corner of the arena as the program scheduled a game Thursday afternoon against Bishop O’Dowd around the chance to be in the Bay Area to see the school’s former star play. Members of the varsity, JV and freshman teams were in attendance.
Bennett drew up a play for him out of the gates.
And Perrantes gets to root on all the kids Thursday, staying in town until after the games. He also greeted everybody on the court afterward Wednesday.
Coach Russell White brought 45 kids and seven coaches, a 5 1/2-hour bus trip in the works for two years.
“It just seemed right,” he said. “London changed our program. This is an opportunity to show our former players we still support them and it’s an opportunity to show our current players what’s out there for them if they work for it.”
Virginia: Opens the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule next Wednesday at No. 10 Louisville.
California: Hosts No. 18 Arizona on Dec. 30 to open Pac-12 play.
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