J.R. Reynolds scored 23 points in Thursday’s ACC Tournament game.
The third time against Virginia Tech was just as charming as the first two games for Virginia. The Cavaliers completed a three-game season sweep on Thursday in the first round of the ACC Tournament, defeating the Hokies 60-56. Leading the way for UVa was J.R. Reynolds, who continued his recent scoring streak with 23 points.
“I’ll repeat what I said to the team with, I’m not exactly sure, six or seven minutes to go and that I said after the game, [which] was that this game would be won on guts. True to form, it was,” Virginia coach Dave Leitao said. “We didn’t play really well, but we were able to tough it out. We bent in a couple of situations, but did not break.”
After Thursday’s outing, Reynolds has averaged 23.2 points per game in the last 5 contests. That included a pair of gems against Boston College and Maryland where he had 28 and 30 points, respectively. The Roanoke native has increased his scoring each time out against the Hokies, putting up 16 in the first meeting, 19 in game 2, and 23 this time out. Interestingly, Reynolds did not have an assist after posting a career-high 12 the last time against Virginia Tech.
“J.R. continues to play lights out basketball,” Leitao said. “Not just offensively by scoring, he makes some really good plays for us. What goes unnoticed is his floor game and he played terrifically like that.”
Laurynas Mikalauskas put up 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Reynolds had some unexpected help on Thursday. Freshman Laurynas Mikalauskas , who started the game in place of Tunji Soroye , finished with 11 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. It was his first game in double figures for points since he had 10 at N.C. State on Feb. 1. Also, Adrian Joseph chipped in 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks. It was his first game in double figures since a loss at Florida State on Feb. 18 when he had 12.
The Cavaliers also got 6 points and 7 rebounds from Jason Cain. T.J. Bannister also provided 20 solid minutes, particularly down the stretch that gave UVa an additional ball handler. He finished with 2 points and 3 assists.
“We just try to be positive with them and just tell them we’re going to get a stop or we’re going to get a basket, just try to get them believing in ourselves and the team,” Reynolds said when asked what the captains tell the team down the stretch. “If we need a basket or something, they know me or Sean are prepared to give it to them.”
“We just try to be positive with them, tell them to keep a level of focus, to be more hungry than the other team, and to play with more heart than the other team and whoever plays with more heart will outlast the other one,” Singletary said.
Mikalauskas made the biggest difference, however, by giving the Hoos a strong presence on the block. He scored the go-ahead basket with 1:54 to play. Mikalauskas also came up with several big rebounds down the stretch, including one with 39 seconds to go that led to a big free throw. Those plays helped Virginia close the game on a 9-2 run.
The freshman also did a solid job on Coleman Collins , the Hokies’ go-to player on the inside. Collins finished with 5 points on 2-of-9 shooting to go with just 2 rebounds.
“As I’ve said, we had to get other contributions. I thought Lars gave us that today with his energy, his rebounding, and getting to the free-throw line, which we really, really needed, at real critical times in the game,” Leitao said. “I just wanted to have a little more of a physical start without getting him in early foul trouble and that’s why I pulled him out early with one foul because I didn’t want to have him sitting near us for the rest of the half. I decided to start him a couple of days ago, just to give us a little more of a physical presence because of Collins. Although he hadn’t played as well as he is capable of in the first two games, I thought he might have a breakout game and I wanted to prevent that.”
Virginia endured a rough shooting night from first-team All-ACC point guard Sean Singletary , who posted just 8 points on 2-of-10 shooting. Still, Singletary racked up 37 minutes of playing time and contributed 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal.
Leitao praised the gutsy effort by Singletary and Reynolds.
“Thank goodness we have these two guys because they played their hearts out as they have all year long,” Leitao said. “Sean, who’s not at full strength, still is one of the gutsiest guys I’ve ever met, [so] he didn’t let that get in the way of playing as many minutes as he played and being a major contributor in the game.”
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