Cavaliers Gallop Past Gonzaga

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Sean Singletary smiles on the bench. He had plenty to be happy about with a career-high 37-point outing against Gonzaga.

There must be something about Gonzaga that brings out the best in Sean Singletary . Last year, Virginia’s star point guard scored a career-high 35 points in a loss to the Bulldogs in Spokane. On Wednesday at the John Paul Jones Arena, Singletary posted a new career-high with 37 points as the Cavaliers ravaged Gonzaga 108-87.

“I think it goes without saying that I’m really, really pleased with our effort today,” said Virginia coach Dave Leitao. “To come out and play as well as we did, on both ends of the floor, was truly a magnificent performance.”

Virginia (9-3, 1-0 ACC) got off to a rollicking offensive start. Singletary, doing his best Allen Iverson impersonation, was unstoppable from beyond the arc, as he hit his first five 3-point attempts and racked up 17 first half points. Virginia’s first nine points were scored by Singletary. He finished the game having hit 9 of 16 shots, including 7 of 12 from three-point range. The 7 3-pointers mark a career-high for him.

This was Singletary’s second straight 30+ point performance. Against American last Thursday, he scored 33 points.

“He’s been spectacular,” said Leitao of Singletary. “His ability to shoot, his defense, and his speed have gotten a lot better. He energizes us with his spirit as well as his play.”

Virginia set a new school record for team 3-pointers with 18. The old record was 15, set in 1983 against Clemson and tied in 2002 against Georgia Tech.

“That wasn’t the game plan,” said Singletary of Virginia’s 3-point barrage. “It was just something that we had been working on. And by playing defense, we were able to get confidence and hit open shots.”

Solomon Tat played for just the second time this season.

Sophomore swingman Mamadi Diane finished with 22 points, 14 of which came in the first half. Virginia’s third-leading scorer was senior shooting guard J.R. Reynolds with 15 points.

Freshman swingman Solomon Tat saw his first action of the season since playing against Arizona, which was followed with a prolonged recovery from a groin injury. He scored two points and made a beautiful assist on a play in which he found Tunji Soroye streaking toward the basket for a lay up. He finished with five assists on the night.

Sophomore forward Laurynas Mikalauskas made his first start of the season and scored three points over 22 minutes of play. His energetic dunk off a fast break pass from Singletary in the opening minutes of the game brought a roaring crowd of 13,827 to its feet.

“A guy like him still has to get more comfortable with himself and more comfortable with what we’re asking him to do,” said Leitao. “And hopefully as he does that, we’ll just continue to get better and better.”

Freshman forward Jamil Tucker scored a career-high 12 points, nine of which came on a trio of 3-pointers.

“He can make open shots with the best of them,” said Leitao.

Virginia’s defensive effort made Gonzaga’s offense look absolutely fetid in the first half. The Bulldogs (9-6, 0-0 West Coast Conference) were held to 8-of-30 shooting (26.7%) in the first half, including a 2 of 9 mark from beyond the arch.

Senior guard Derek Raivio led Gonzaga with 26 points, but did most of his damage in the second half well after the game was out of reach. Gonzaga’s leading scorer in the first half was senior forward Sean Mallon with 10 points. He finished with 16.

Laurynas Mikalauskas throws down a dunk early in the victory over the Zags.

“Our defense was terrific for a second game in a row early on,” said Leitao. “For 27 to 30 minutes, I thought we played very good defense.”

Virginia led 60-26 at halftime. That wide margin surprised Leitao as much as anyone.

“I didn’t have a 34-point lead speech planned,” said the usually well-prepared Leitao as the pressroom laughed.

In the second half, Virginia was outscored 61-48 but it was much too little and much too late for the Bulldogs.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few was at a loss for words after the game. The Bulldogs have now dropped four games in a row. Earlier this season, Gonzaga beat North Carolina 82-74.

“There is not a whole lot for me to say,” said Few. “That’s as bad as we’ve been beaten certainly in the eight years that I’ve been the head coach. Virginia’s effort level was far superior. Their execution was far superior. Their toughness was far superior.”

Virginia next hosts Stanford (8-4, 1-2 Pac-10) at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Note: Before the game, a moment of silence was held in memory of Scott McCandlish. McCandlish played center for the Cavaliers between 1969 and 1972. He died on Saturday after battling multiple sclerosis.


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