The snow falling outside University Hall did little to cool down the heated rivalry taking place inside the clam on Saturday night. Virginia and Virginia Tech dueled for 45 minutes in a back-and-forth overtime battle that featured 13 ties and 16 lead changes. The Cavaliers finally see-sawed on top for good with less than 2 minutes to play and they held on for the 81-77 victory.
J.R. Reynolds finished with 19 points and 12 assists against Virginia Tech.
Virginia had a similar situation against Florida State earlier this season at home, but fell in that overtime contest 87-82. J.R. Reynolds said the team wanted the result to be different this time around.
“I told the team at the end of regulation, the last time … we found ourselves in this position was Florida State and we didn’t do the things necessary in the final five minutes,” UVa coach Dave Leitao said. “I’d like to think that’s where you define yourself a little bit. … In the last five minutes, I thought we did what was necessary … and were able to win a very, very difficult game.”
“[Coach] brought up the Florida State loss. He just said he wanted a different outcome,” Reynolds said. “He looked in all the guys’ faces, in the eyes of all the guys and I think he got the message that we wanted it and that we were going to win this.”
Reynolds certainly played a big role in the different finish this time around in a game that was billed as a battle between backcourts. Certainly, those guards did not disappoint.
Reynolds finished with 19 points and a career-high 12 assists, while Sean Singletary added 23 points and 6 rebounds for the Cavaliers. Virginia Tech’s backcourt also played well as Jamon Gordon poured in 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists and Zabian Dowdell added 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.
The forward slots were up to task too. UVa’s Adrian Joseph recorded 15 points and 5 rebounds to go with Mamadi Diane ‘s 8 points and 3 rebounds; Jason Cain added 10 points and 8 rebounds as well. For Tech, the combination of Wynton Witherspoon (8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) and Deron Washington (8 points, 4 rebounds) struggled a bit, but A.D. Vassallo came up with 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists.
So all of the individual statistics were pretty even, which isn’t surprising in a game that swayed back and forth for most of the second half and overtime. The difference in the outcome came down to the Cavaliers’ timely defense and free-throw shooting – and one good bounce.
In overtime, Vassallo pushed Virginia Tech ahead 75-72 with a 3-pointer over Cain with 2:34 showing on the clock. Virginia’s timeliness came through from there. On the Cavs’ next two possessions, Reynolds and Singletary each made 2 free throws to edged the Cavaliers ahead 76-75. The Hokies’ two possessions following those freebies did not produce points as Virginia switched to a 2-3 zone; the defensive wrinkle altered the visitors’ rhythm just enough for UVa to get two stops as Dowdell and Witherspoon missed jumpers.
“It was a game that could have gone either way,” Greenberg said. “The possession that I would like back is the one coming out of a timeout. They went zone and we went to our T-game. Instead of attacking and trying to get some penetration, we just reversed the ball on the perimeter. No one really stepped up and attacked or tried to make someone play them. We needed to be aggressive on that possession. They were more aggressive on their final three possessions.”
“Coach just wanted to keep them off rhythm because they’re such good players,” Cain said. “Today he did that and it worked out in our favor.”
Still, the Cavs needed one last basket to fully put the pressure on the Hokies, which is where a little bit of fortune kicked in. Reynolds drove the lane late in the shot clock before shuffling a pass attempt toward the Virginia bench – it was either intended for a player in the corner or Laurynas Mikalauskas on the left block.
Reynolds was mum on the target, but fortunately for the Cavaliers the ball ended up in the sure mitts of Mikalauskas, who banked in the insurance lay-up and a 78-75 lead. Joseph and Cain eventually sealed the win with free throws.
“The ball just bounced our way,” Reynolds said with a grin amidst the laugh of reporters. “I don’t know, the ball just bounced our way.”
Virginia built a 12-point lead on two occasions, including once early in the second half when Cain knocked down 2 free throws. But the Hokies battled back with an 18-6 surge that gave them a lead near the mid-way point of the second half. From there, it was an up-and-down fight to the finish that the Cavaliers pulled out in the end.
The win was the program’s 400th victory in U-Hall and gave UVa the season sweep of Tech. Virginia now leads the Commonwealth Challenge competition between the two state schools, 10-4.
“Jason Cain got some put-backs. … [Mamadi] got an offensive rebound, had lots of energy on defense, and made a fastbreak dunk,” Singletary said. “Everybody contributed something to the win. Adrian knocked down big jumpshot after big jumpshot. It was a team win.”
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