J.R. Reynolds was named to the all-tournament team in the San Juan Shootout.
Virginia’s nightmare trip to the San Juan Shootout flirted with trilogy status that would have made Wes Craven proud. But like most trilogies, the hero in our story figured out how to overcome the horrors from Part I and II in time to survive the closing act. Not that the Cavaliers escaped without some tense moments against Puerto Rico-Mayaguez on Thursday, but they pulled out the 59-52 win to finish 1-2 in the tournament.
“It’s about time. This was a totally different team that came out here and played the first two games,” J.R. Reynolds told the Virginia Sports Network after the game. “We’re glad we got this win. We’re going to go back home and work hard to try to prepare ourselves for the rest of our games.”
While it is debatable whether Thursday’s team was “totally different” than the squad from the first two days, the Cavs did get a win. After all, the Hoos trailed for most of the first 8 minutes before surging ahead late in the first half. Of course, just like in the movies, PRM kept coming back no matter what the island visitors did. The Bulldogs closed to within one at the half on a long 3-pointer and then took the lead at 30-29 shortly after intermission.
From there, the Cavs finally came up with a sustained stretch to create a working margin. After Mayaguez took the one-point lead, UVa put together a 29-16 run to take a double-digit lead at 58-46. From there, the visitors managed to keep the Shootout hosts at arm’s length despite scoring just one point in the final four minutes and held on for the seven-point victory.
“I really can’t [explain why we played like we did down here],” Reynolds said. “I talked to the guys and coach tried to motivate us and we tried to motivate ourselves, but it’s all about pride to win … and will and desire. Guys have to want to win and want to be out on the court and play together as a team.”
Ryan Pettinella left the game with a knee injury of some kind. Details are unknown until the team returns.
Reynolds, who made the all-tournament team, finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds on Thursday. He made 4 of 9 shots against PRM. Adrian Joseph scored 10 points off the bench and Laurynas Mikalauskas added 8 points in playing his most minutes of the season. Also, Jerome Meyinsse played 18 minutes to log 5 points and 4 rebounds. The two post players saw extended time because Ryan Pettinella left in the first half with a knee injury of some kind, though Leitao said the extent of the injury would not be known until they get back to Charlottesville.
The extended minutes for Meyinsse were part of a trend that saw freshmen Will Harris , Jamil Tucker , and Meyinsse play more minutes than in previous games. Leitao said after the game that “practice will determine” if that becomes an ongoing theme.
Leitao, who was brief in his comments with the VSN, told the team to enjoy a few days off for the holidays before returning to practice on Monday, Christmas day. Reynolds joked that it would be the team’s “Christmas present.”
“He just told us to enjoy our time right now. To go home, relax, and get our minds focused because when we get back we’re going to work hard,” Reynolds said. “We need to start focusing on defense a little bit more and on playing together as a team on defense.”
That seemed to be the resounding topic of discussion in the postgame chatter. The Hoos simply want to put this three-part nightmare trip behind them and get back to work when they return. UVa faces American in one week on Thursday, Dec. 28.
“I think this was a great learning experience for us. I think it let us know where we’re at and let us know the things we need to do to get better,” Reynolds said. “I’m kind of frustrated, but at the same I’m kind of glad that we have to get back in the gym and know what to start focusing on.”
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