Norfolk St.-Virginia Preview

BY foxsports • November 15, 2014

Without its starting point guard, Virginia still had little difficulty opening the season on a positive note.

Sophomore London Perrantes will be available Sunday night when the ninth-ranked Cavaliers try to remain perfect all-time against visiting Norfolk State.

Because of an offseason violation of team rules, Perrantes and backup forward Evan Nolte were suspended for two preseason games and Friday's 79-51 road victory over James Madison. The Cavaliers didn't miss either player, shooting 58.0 percent and holding the Dukes to 28.3.

Playing with their highest preseason ranking since topping the AP poll in 1982-83, the Cavaliers didn't let 16 turnovers derail their progress or prevent them from playing well offensively following the loss of four-year starter and 2014 ACC tournament MVP Joe Harris (12.0 points per game) to the NBA.

"Not one guy can replace what Joe did," guard Justin Anderson, who had a team-high 18 points, told the school's official website. "We have to do it collectively. And that's guys getting open, getting their feet set and being ready to fire."

Perrantes averaged 5.5 points while starting 33 of 37 games as a freshman, and he might not be counted on to score much more in 2014-15. However, he needs to remain the Cavaliers' top playmaker after averaging a team-high 3.8 assists.

He'll have the chance starting Sunday to get the ball in the hands of Anderson, Anthony Gill and Malcolm Brogdon - the team's top three returning scorers. They were the only Cavaliers in double figures in the opener, combining for 47 points on 17-of-27 shooting.

Freshman forward Isaiah Wilkins, the stepson of former NBA star Dominique Wilkins, also is expected to contribute after recording eight points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in 19 minutes.

"That was a good opening act for Isaiah," coach Tony Bennett said.

Defense, however, remains the calling card for a Virginia program that was No. 1 in the nation last season with an average of 55.7 points allowed and ranked ninth with a defensive field-goal percentage of 38.8. The Cavaliers forced 18 turnovers and held James Madison to 1 of 10 from 3-point range in the second half after it went 7 of 16 in the first.

Having cleared their first hurdle, the Cavaliers eagerly return home, where they've won 11 in a row overall and 31 of 32 against unranked opponents.

"We look forward to going home," Anderson said. "We couldn't wait to be home, even before (the season opener). But we knew that we had a task in front of us, and whatever's thrown in front of us, we want to make sure that we focus in on that, and then we worry about what comes after that."

Anderson has totaled 29 points in two games versus Norfolk State, including 14 with eight rebounds and three assists to help Virginia improve to 3-0 over the Spartans with a 66-56 home victory Dec. 23.

Boston University transfer Malik Thomas scored a team-high 14 points in Norfolk State's 81-43 rout of Division II Pfeiffer University on Friday.

The Spartans lost their top five scorers from last season's 19-15 team.

Norfolk State has dropped three straight against Top 25 teams since an 86-84 upset of Missouri in the 2012 NCAA tournament.