Sean Singletary , shown here against Clemson, couldn’t help deliver a win at N.C. State.
A year ago at the RBC Center in Raleigh, Virginia’s Sean Singletary scored the game-winning lay-up with less than 3 seconds to play to beat N.C. State. On Wednesday night, Singletary had another chance at a game-winner as time expired, but unfortunately for the Cavs it was from much farther away as the Wolfpack prevailed 66-64.
Singletary’s last-second heave, which came from more than 25 feet away, nearly found its way into the basket, drawing an audible sigh of relief from the NCSU crowd. You can count coach Herb Sendek among those that exhaled.
“What’s going through my head?,” Sendek said with a laugh in his postgame news conference. “Not much through my head, [but] a lot through my heart. Every night you turn on SportsCenter and there’s miraculous plays, there’s all kind of things that happen, and, you know, last year he beat us on a buzzer shot if I recall. He’s a big-play guy. So it would have been a lot easier on us all if we had made the front end of two one-and-ones, but we kept it interesting.”
The loss did not sit well with Virginia coach Dave Leitao, particularly since the Cavaliers had the lead with less than 3 minutes to play. But coming out of the media timeout at 3:12, J.R. Reynolds made just 1 of 2 free throws, which left UVa with a three-point lead at 62-59. The Cavaliers did not score again after that freebie until Adrian Joseph (career-high 8 rebounds) tipped in a missed shot with 3.6 seconds to play. What happened in the 3:09 in between points was a disastrous stretch of poor execution and missed shots:
- Singletary missed a desperation shot late in the shot clock
- Reynolds had a turnover
- Reynolds missed two 3-pointers
- Singletary came up empty on a drive when he was bumped by Cedric Simmons
“Poor execution. Giving up easy shots. Backdoor cuts that we prevented most of the game, they got, post-ups, and an [overall] lack of execution,” Leitao said.
Virginia’s forgettable finish was foreshadowed by a sluggish start. The Wolfpack opened the game with a 14-2 lead as the Cavaliers went 0-of-8 shooting. Laurynas Mikalauskas finally stopped the game-opening struggles with a bucket to make it 14-4 and UVa clawed its way back into the ballgame by halftime at 29-26.
After NCSU held a steady lead for much of the second half, Virginia made its move at around the 10-minute mark with a 12-3 run that eventually ballooned to 18-8. UVa first took the lead at 53-52 on a Singletary lay-up and Mamadi Diane stretched the lead to three with a 12-footer on a Singletary assist.
The Pack answered with a 5-0 run to retake the lead, but the Hoos bounced right back with a 6-0 burst for a 61-57 lead on a Mikalauskas basket inside. However, that would be the visitors’ second-to-last field goal as the hosts made the plays down the stretch. Ilian Evtimov, in particular, made several key plays including a right-handed shot to make it 61-59, a 3-pointer to tie the game at 62, and an assist to Engin Atsur to make the score 66-62.
“Ilian is a terrific passer. … He’s done that throughout his career for us,” Sendek said. “That’s the value of having some guys with experience. … That’s what your older guys are supposed to do for you. We talked about it in detail after the Clemson game that Ilian is a great player.”
While some may be pleased with UVa’s effort in a loss, don’t count Leitao among them.
“I’ve said it a hundred times, there’s nothing pleasing about losing. We could’ve been up by 50, down by a hundred, [it doesn’t matter. When] you lose a game, you didn’t do the things you needed to do to win,” Leitao said. “Hopefully as I’m around long enough people understand, … I watch my team play and the way they play, which makes me understand if we have a chance at the end of the game to win or lose. … I watch body language, I watch all those things. With the season, I do the same thing. We’ve lost two in a row and we’ve got to figure out a way to get back on track. That means more than anything else. I don’t have thoughts on anything else, halfway point, three-quarters of the way through [the season], last game, first game. I hate to be rude about it, but that’s just how I am. We just have to get back to practice and see if we can win our next game. It’s as simple as that.”
(For complete coverage of the Cavaliers, please sign up for Sabre Edge.)