Cavs Shake Off Pesky Retrievers

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Jason Cain, shown here against Northwestern earlier this year, continued his recent strong play with another double-double.

Virginia’s second straight game with an opponent from Maryland didn’t follow the same script as last week’s 98-59 romp against Loyola, but the result reads the same: UVa wins. It wasn’t easy against UMBC — thanks in large part to the Retrievers’ ability to hit 3-pointers — but rest assured, coach Dave Leitao and company were happy to leave the ALLTEL Pavilion at the Siegel Center in Richmond with the 77-66 victory.

“I don’t think we were as aggressive as we need to be. I told the team after game, we had a different mindset after losing three in a row in preparing for Loyola than we did after beating Loyola the way we did and preparing for this game,” Leitao said. “We can’t afford to do that, particularly with as small a margin of error as we have. We need our focus as much as anything else (to win games).”

UVa finally managed to shake the pesky Retrievers thanks to a strong second half-showing of offense. After intermission, the Cavaliers hit 56 percent of their shots and knocked down 13 of 14 free-throw attempts. A quartet of Cavs combined to lead the second-half charge. J.R. Reynolds, who had his second straight game with at least 20 points, poured in 14 after the break; he finished with 20 points and six assists. Reynolds logged significant minutes at the point guard slot in the first half thanks to foul trouble for Sean Singletary , who picked up his second whistle with more than 15 minutes remaining in the opening stanza. Singletary bounced back from his first-half troubles with six points and five assists after halftime to finish with seven points and six assists.

Jason Cain and Mamadi Diane also played big roles in the second-half push. Cain had nine points and five rebounds after halftime, which pushed him to another double-double. Cain, who is quicker than fellow post players Laurynas Mikalauskas and Tunji Soroye , logged 36 minutes thanks to the smaller nature of the Retrievers’ lineup. He was obviously up to the task. Cain, coming off a career-high 16 rebounds against Loyola, booked 16 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks against UMBC.

Diane, meanwhile, scored 11 of his 16 points after halftime and several of those shots came at big moments in the second half. With the scoreboard showing a 44-42 UVa lead, Diane made a steal in the passing lane and turned it into a thunderous dunk on the other end to give the Cavs some breathing room. Later when UMBC had cut a growing Virginia lead to 57-53, Diane came through again with a big bucket.

This time, Reynolds penetrated and kicked the ball out to Diane, who calmly canned the 3-pointer to make the score 60-53. Finally, after the Retrievers again fought back to make the score 60-59 on a Brian Hodges’ trey, Diane stroked another jumper to make the lead 62-59. That bucket helped propel the Cavaliers down the win-sealing stretch.

Diane’s second half seemed to mirror a fellow Cavalier wing forward’s first half. Adrian Joseph , who was the fourth Hoo in double figures with 10 points, had all of his offensive production in the first half. Like Diane after intermission, Joseph had a strong dunk and some long-range shots as part of his output.

In fact, Virginia seemed poised to pull away late in the first half when a 15-4 run turned a small deficit into a 27-19 Cavalier lead. Joseph played a big role in the burst with a 3-pointer and a two-handed dunk on a pass from Reynolds. Moments later after UMBC cut the lead to 27-23, Joseph and Reynolds connected again — this time, Reynolds penetrated and pitched out to Joseph for a 3-pointer and a 30-23 advantage.

But, as the case was all night in Richmond, the Retrievers kept battling. UMBC surged for seven unanswered points to tie the game at 30, which led to a UVa timeout. The Cavs ended the half with a 33-30 lead thanks to a Cain free throw and a Soroye offensive rebound and score.

“I thought a couple of stretches (were key for us). One, when we got down in first half and two, to end the game,” Leitao said. “Credit UMBC for really working extremely hard. They were executing well offensively and got a ton of open shots. … Those two stretch were a little bit of the difference in what was a tight, close basketball game that became a double-figure win for us.”

NEWS AND NOTES. Virginia walk-on Drew Shiembob, out of Richmond’s St. Christopher’s School, contributed four points in seven minutes on 2-of-2 shooting. One of his baskets came on Cain’s only assist of the game. … UVa had just 10 turn-overs and nine steals as a team. … The Cavaliers are now 3-0 against UMBC and 5-0 against the current teams of the America East Conference. … UMBC fell to 4-7 with Wednesday’s loss. … The Cavaliers improved to 5-4 and have a chance to head into 2006 with a winning record when Hartford visits Charlottesville on Saturday.

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