Cavaliers Hold Off Hartford

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For Virginia, the men’s basketball game on New Year’s Eve had a bit of a carnival feel to it. A “Create a Hoo/Help a Youth” promotion helped stock University Hall with lots of screaming kids to root on Sean Singletary and company. A pair of timeout relay races provided some amusement as did a jester of sorts – a Wahoo fan heckling Hawks’ free throw shooters in the second half. But for the Cavaliers, a day at the carnival nearly ended like a scary trip to the maze of mirrors: without much fun to speak of and everything out of sorts.

Adrian Joseph , shown here against Loyola, had 15 points and 7 rebounds vs. Hartford.

UVa did enough to pull out the 71-62 win, however, thanks to some late-game leadership from Singletary (22 points, 7 assists), a strong showing from Adrian Joseph (15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) and a first-half lift from J.R. Reynolds (13 points, 2 assists).

All of those numbers have interest, but the most glaring statistic of the game? Offensive rebounding. Hartford pulled down 28 offensive boards, while UVa had just 9. The Hawks’ Kenny Adeleke did most of the damage with 10 O-boards of his own as he proved to be a handful in the paint with 21 points and 15 rebounds.

Certainly some of that disparity can be attributed to a difference in shooting percentage – the Cavs shot 50 percent (25 of 50), while the Hawks show 29 percent for the game (20 of 69) and Adeleke himself went 6 of 21 (28.6 percent). More misses means more opportunities. Still, Dave Leitao was not happy with his team’s showing on the glass as a whole, citing that phase of the game as an example of the Cavaliers’ overall lack of consistency this season.

“You could say it was foul trouble. You could say some people are banged up. You could say a lot of other things, but at the end of the day … before a difficult game with Western Kentucky and our difficult ACC schedule, we didn’t do the things that we have wanted to do from day one,” Leitao said. “I think we’re better than we were when we started in October and I think we’re better than we were in the first couple of games, but we’re still inconsistent. … Today it was rebounding, another day it might be defense or not shooting well or whatever, but we have to find some sort of groove. … We have to reach a point where when we look at each other in the locker room, we know what each person is going to provide each time out.”

While the rebounding problems are part of the overall lack of size, depth and strength in the post, the Cavaliers do have one at least one thing in their favor: Singletary. The dynamic point guard took over the game when the score got tight in the second half and essentially made sure this didn’t become Fordham.

The Hawks had closed to 52-47 at the 7:59 media timeout when Singletary took matters into his own hands. At 6:45, he hit a pull-up jumper to make it 54-47. After Bernard Lowndes responded with a short jumper for Hartford, Singletary hit another shot at 6:28 to make it 56-49.

“I thought I did a good of trying to get my teammates involved and going, but when I saw we were struggling a little in the second half, I put it upon myself to make some shots and get some tips in the passing lane and things like that to provide us with some energy and a lift,” Singletary said.

The point guard followed that with a pair of free throws, another shot that Laurynas Mikalauskas (8 points, 6 rebounds) rebounded and scored, and an assist to Mamadi Diane at 4:21 that made the lead 62-49 thanks to a 10-2 UVa run. That burst eventually only read 13-6, but Singletary scored 9 of the 13 and directly led to the other four.

“He’s so quick, so good with the ball and we had a hard time keeping him in front of us,” Hartford coach Larry Harrison said. “In the first half, he split our zone and in the second half when we got close, he got in the lane and hit some pull-up jumpers and floaters. I don’t think he hurt us as much as we thought he could.”

Harrison glanced at the stat sheet between questions before adding this:

“I said he didn’t hurt us as much, but when I look here and see 22 points – I didn’t think he had that many. They must have come in spurts,” Harrison said. “We couldn’t press them as much as we like to because of his quickness.”

Of course, Virginia was able to put this one in the win column thanks to a pair of first-half surges that built enough of a cushion to survive a rough second-half showing. After leading 14-11, the Cavs put together a 13-6 run to build the lead to double digits at 27-17 with 5:43 to go in the half.

Joseph had 7 of the 13 points in the run as he knocked down a 3-pointer in front of the Hartford bench to start things off. Moments later, he drew a foul as he dribbled into a post move and made both free throws. Joseph also added a pull-up jumper at the 6:20 mark.

“Even before the game starts, in the pre-game shoot-around, I’m trying to get through all of my shots and get a good sweat going so when the game starts I’ll be ready to go so that when I go into the game, something good will happen like it did today,” Joseph said.

After a Drew Shiembob layup on a Reynolds assist made it 27-17, Hartford called a timeout and momentarily stopped the streaking Hoos as Aaron Cook knocked down one of his three 3-pointers. That proved to be a short-lived fix.

The Hoos answered with another burst (this one measured 12-0 over roughly three minutes) that was fueled by some outside sharp-shooting and a pair of easy layups. Joseph again sparked things with a déjà vu 3-pointer from the corner before Reynolds got hot on the offensive end.

Reynolds followed Joseph’s shot with a trey of his own on the next possession for a 33-20 lead and struck again at the 3:05 mark with a one-dribble, pull-up J after the defense ran at him along the 3-point line. After a Hartford turnover, Reynolds was the beneficiary of a fastbreak layup when Singletary dropped off a no-look bounce pass that led to a Hawks’ timeout.

The stop in play did nothing to cool off Reynolds, who got another layup after Mikalauskas kept a possession alive by tipping out a rebound. The last layup came at 2:18 and capped a personal 9-0 run for Reynolds and a 12-0 burst for the Cavs, who led 39-20 at the time. That lead would be 39-23 at the half.

Notes. Reynolds scored 9 of his 13 points in one stretch of the first half. … Mikalauskas scored all 8 of his points after halftime as he went 4 of 5 from the field. … Jason Cain’s double-double streak was snapped thanks to foul trouble. He finished with 7 points on 3-of-3 shooting and four rebounds. …Singletary had 5 of his 7 assists in the first half and 13 of his 22 points in the second half. …

Shiembob, a walk-on played a significant role with Tunji Soroye , Cain and Mikalauskas all in foul trouble. He played 16 minutes and scored four points with 2 rebounds (both offensive) and one assist. The best measure of his impact came with UVa struggling in the second half. At 11:36, he picked up an O-board and an assist when he pitched the rebound out to Singletary for a 3-pointer. Moments later, he grabbed another rebound and stuck it in the basket for two points. Those five points were the only Cavalier production during a 17-5 Hartford run. …

The Cavaliers (6-4) have a short turnaround between games as they travel to Western Kentucky on Monday at 8 p.m.

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