Adrian Joseph , shown here against Northwestern, hit the game-winning 3-pointer against Virginia Tech.
Sean Singletary had missed practice for much of the week. Virginia had 21 turnovers and hadn’t won at Virginia Tech since 2001. Two Cavalier post players – Laurynas Mikalauskas and Tunji Soroye – had fouled out, plus J.R. Reynolds was in second-half foul trouble. The Hokies had surged into the lead on the strength of a 10-0 run. Still, the Cavaliers found a way to win. By closing the game on a 10-0 run of their own, including Adrian Joseph ‘s game-winning 3-pointer in the final 50 seconds, the Cavs defeated VT in Blacksburg on Sunday, 54-49.
“It was a great [win]. It feels great,” Joseph told the Virginia Sports Network. “It’s a sign of hard work, which we do every day in practice, and it results in a W.”
“Our mental toughness came into play tonight,” Singletary said. “We’re a young team in a hostile environment against veteran players. Players like Mamadi [Diane] and Adrian stepped up down the stretch, got some key rebounds, a key shot, key free throws and we just pulled through.”
It was Virginia’s first win at Cassell Coliseum since 2001, a 64-48 victory. The 2006 triumph wouldn’t win any beauty contests, but it will be a memorable one for Hoo fans and Dave Leitao. It was Leitao’s first ACC road win and arguably his first “marquee” road win with the Cavs. The team’s only other road victory thus far this season came at Richmond in November.
“We stuck in there and hung in tight. Obviously, we fought ourselves again through foul trouble and had to go to a 2-3 zone. We got a little stagnant again, as we did against Florida State, offensively, but we came through this time. We learned our lesson. Adrian with a huge 3-pointer and Sean with a big shot before that,” Leitao said in his Virginia Sports Network postgame interview. “It’s about growth, and it’s about sticking to your gameplan and learning. I thought we did a good job at that and hopefully we grew some whiskers tonight by that victory.”
Dave Leitao has Virginia 2-2 in the ACC, which puts the Cavs in the middle of a tightly bunched pack. Only No. 1 Duke remains unbeaten in conference play.
The victory also came in a hostile environment where two separate announcements were made to stop throwing things on the floor. The second came from VT coach Seth Greenberg, who tacked on “we’re going to play as hard as humanly possible” to his announcement. Needless to say, the Hokie faithful responded with vigor and helped push the team to a 10-0 run that gave the hosts the lead at 41-39 on a Coleman Collins basket. That advantage eventually ballooned to 49-44 when Zabian Dowdell knocked down a 3-pointer at 3:37. That’s when the Cavaliers locked down on defense, shutting out the Hokies the rest of the way to get the win.
In the end, Virginia held VT to 33 percent shooting (including 14 percent from 3-point range). UVa also won the rebounding battle 32-25.
“The first thing I check at the end of the game is what we give up in field goal percentage defense and the rebounding battle. We lost by one on the backboards the other day and we obviously gave up … 60 percent [against Florida State],” Leitao said. “We really rededicated ourselves the last couple of days to getting in the gym and really focusing on the defensive end and it paid big dividends for us today and obviously we won the battle of the backboards, too.”
Still, Virginia had to come up with some offense down the stretch in order to erase the five-point deficit. As Leitao mentioned, offense in the final minutes against Florida State was not a strong suit (a 7:12 field goal drought late in regulation and overtime). This time, Singletary made sure late-game scoring wasn’t a problem.
The Cavalier point guard took over the game in the final 10:30, scoring 13 straight points for his team. That scoring burst included nine points in the final 4:50 as Singletary hit a double-clutch layup, a pull-up jumper, a 3-pointer, and two free throws. He finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 7 turnovers.
Not bad for a guy who missed practice late in the week. Singletary brushed off an injury question as something he would have to ‘play through.’ He did not elaborate on what specific ailments he was dealing with.
“I felt a little drained. It’s nothing a little rest won’t take care of,” Singletary said. “I just got to play through it. It’s part of basketball and I’m aware of that.”
Singletary’s hot hand forced the Hokies to make a slight defensive assignment change with less than a minute to play as they moved a taller defender over to guard the Cavs’ point guard. Virginia got the ball in Reynolds’ hands instead and he beat his man off the dribble before kicking it out to Joseph in the corner. Joseph calmly drained the 3-pointer in front of his team’s bench and Mamadi Diane put the game away at the free-throw line after the Cavaliers came up with a couple of defensive stops.
“We came out of the timeout and the coach said that was the play – come off the screen, give it up to J.R., open up and look for the 3-point shot,” Joseph. “In practice, I take those shots all the time so I was confident in knocking it down and it did go down.”
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