Virginia Knocks Off Wake Forest

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J.R. Reynolds elevates for the game-winning shot against Wake Forest at U-Hall.

Behind a dominant showing in the rebounding category and a game-winning shot from J.R. Reynolds with less than 5 seconds to play, Virginia grabbed its fifth ACC victory of the season Saturday by edging Wake Forest at University Hall, 75-73. At 11-8, 5-4 the Cavaliers have already surpassed last season’s ACC win mark with 7 league games remaining.

“It’s a whole new existence. I liked to think right now, especially this time of year, the guys who were around last year who are around this year know that is in the past and really don’t focus in on it,” Leitao said. “I don’t talk about it. I don’t think we really talk about it at all. We were at four, let’s get to five. We’re at five, let’s get to six and keep going from there. ”

Reynolds’ game-winning shot came on a last sequence similar to a late-game situation against Florida State. In the FSU overtime loss (89-82), Sean Singletary drove the lane, drew the defense and kicked out to Mamadi Diane for a potential game-winning jumper at the end of regulation. That shot fell short and FSU went on to win in the extra session.

The Cavaliers went to a similar set this time around with a high screen-and-roll play featuring Jason Cain and Singletary. Wake Forest chose to trap Singletary off the screen, but he used a retreat dribble to get around the outside of the trap and attacked the paint. WFU’s defense rotated to pick him up, much like FSU did, and Singletary again kicked outside to the right corner. This time, Reynolds was the one awaiting the pass and, unlike Diane against Florida State, he had a few more seconds to work with.

Reynolds (21 points) used those few extra ticks of the clock to his advantage by throwing a head fake and driving the baseline. The Wake defense attempted to rotate, but it wasn’t in time as Reynolds lofted a soft arching floater to the basket for the game-winning shot with 4.1 seconds to play.

“I was just worried about the time actually. I didn’t really know how much time was left on the clock. I just wanted to shoot it and give it a chance to go in and if it missed, give my team an opportunity to rebound the ball,” Reynolds said. “It felt real good, and once I fell to the floor and heard the crowd go wild, I knew it went in.”

“We wanted to go with a little bit of screen-and-roll and see if they switched or see if they hedged and try to create some separation between their two defenders and our two offensive players, then play off of that,” Leitao said. “I told Sean if he got a clean look to try to go to the basket or to pull up, which he does a lot. If not, if he could draw the defender, then he has J.R. in the corner or if he could come back on the other side, then he’s got Adrian for either a catch-and-shoot or a catch-and-drive. I thought those three options were going to be the best. I wanted it to be early enough that we could possibly get a tip-in or something like that with two or three seconds left.

“Fortunately, J.R. read the defense terrifically. A guy came at him, he lift faked perfectly, one hard dribble which is what we try to get him to do all the time, and he just made a terrific shot,” Leitao added.

Demon Deacons coach Skip Prosser said the choice to trap Singletary off the screen-and-roll was in an effort to get the ball out of Singletary’s hands. Simply put, he didn’t want the dynamic point guard to beat his team. That, of course, freed up Reynolds for the winning heroics.

“We didn’t want Singletary to beat us,” Prosser said. “[Reynolds] made a good shot, but we were a little late in the rotation. Singletary’s a big shot maker and so is Reynolds. It’s sort of pick your poison. As has been our wont lately, it ended up being poison.”

UVa’s Jason Cain posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

It also ended up being the antidote for Virginia’s two-game losing streak. But as big as the last shot was, it took a total team effort to get the victory. In addition to Reynolds’ 21 points and 3 assists, three other Cavs reached double figures in scoring. Singletary added 19 points and 8 assists, while Cain brought home a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds (6 offensive) to go with 3 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal. Adrian Joseph was the fourth player in double figures with 14 points and he matched his career-high with 8 rebounds (he had 8 at N.C. State on Wednesday as well).

Also for UVa, Diane ripped down a career-high 10 rebounds, including 4 of the offensive variety. Two of those O-boards were huge as he got his only 2 points on a tip-in and his final rebound gave Virginia the final possession of the game.

“The guys gave him an ovation in the locker room after the game,” Leitao said. “We told them at halftime that you can make other contributions in the game. If you defend, rebound, move your feet, those kinds of things, you’ll find yourself much more involved in the game. He did a tremendous job.”

The 8,211 in attendance got a chance to see more than just a great rebounding effort from Diane and the Cavaliers, though. The game was a classic ACC battle that ebbed and flowed with runs from both teams. In the end, Reynolds’ shot and Justin Gray’s running attempt for Wake Forest from just inside halfcourt at the buzzer were the concluding act to an exciting showdown that resulted in UVa’s 399th win in University Hall..

“He probably could have taken a couple more dribbles,” Prosser said. “We’ve run that play before, at N.C. State last year. We got what we wanted there.”

Virginia got what it wanted in the end as well. Another ACC win.

“Obviously, you put another one on the left side for us,” Leitao said. “We’ve got to get some rest. We’re in the middle of a tough stretch where we go nine straight days with Tuesday against Maryland being the ninth. We’ve really got to batten down the hatches, get some rest, and regain our focus for Tuesday.”

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