Reynolds, Cavs Wheel Past Wake

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J.R. Reynolds erupted for a career-high 40 points against Wake Forest.

When Wake Forest visited Virginia last season, guard J.R. Reynolds grabbed the late-game spotlight with a clutch game-winning floater in University Hall. Reynolds didn’t wait until the final 5 seconds to steal the show this time around in the John Paul Jones Arena. Reynolds poured in a career-high 40 points as the Cavaliers took an 88-76 victory Sunday against the Demon Deacons.

Reynolds made 12 of 18 shots, including 6 of 8 3-pointers en route to his career showing. He also made 10 of 10 free throws, including four in the final 1:46 to reach the 40-point barrier.

“Well, it was great that we got the win, but I was feeling it early and I kept it going, kept believing in my shots,” Reynolds said. “And my team did a great job of putting me into positions to score.”

Reynolds had it going from all over the court. Drives and pull-ups. Transition and halfcourt offense. 3-pointers – including a few from somewhere near downtown Charlottesville that Prosser joked “were like 4’s.”

Those long bombs didn’t surprise teammate Jason Cain, who said this is one of the best games he’s seen Reynolds play during their four years together at UVa.

“Oh, I’m used to it,” Cain said of Reynolds’ range. “He works on it all the time so I’m used to it.”

The Virginia senior also handled the point guard duties for a long period of time in the second half as Sean Singletary , who finished with 19 points and 7 assists, battled foul trouble. Even with the increased ball-handling demands, Reynolds only had one turnover in the game despite the fact that he had been averaging 3.3 per game on the season. He added four assists on the day as well.

That prompted one reporter to ask if it made Reynolds’ performance even more impressive.

“40 points – I mean how much more impressive do you want to get? 10 for 10 from the line, six for eight from three. I’m impressed,” Prosser said. “This is probably a bad day to say this because Kyle [Visser] didn’t have a stellar game, but he is a guy that obviously coach [Pete] Gillen brought in and he’s gotten progressively better each year. Coach [Dave] Leitao and his staff have done a terrific job with him and he’s done a great job himself. That’s sort of the way it used to be in college basketball. Guys come in as freshmen and do okay and then get better and better and better and they’re horses as seniors. And obviously Viss has been that for us, and Reynolds has been that way for Virginia. Obviously we had no answer for him.”

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, had an answer for Visser, Wake Forest’s go-to veteran in the paint. Behind a mixture of zone, double teams, and physical man-to-man defense, the Hoos managed to pester Visser throughout the day. The results? First-half foul trouble for Visser and a final line of 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 turnovers; the Deacs’ post player shot just 2 of 10 from the field.

Lars Mikalauskas grabbed a team-high 7 rebounds and helped defend the Deacons’ Kyle Visser.

Laurynas Mikalauskas and Tunji Soroye spearheaded the Cavs’ defensive effort on the 6’11” senior. Mikalauskas proved to be the more effective choice because he kept Visser from gaining great post position very often by muscling him on the low blocks. Mikalauskas, who only logged six minutes in the first half thanks to two early fouls, played 15 minutes after halftime and leaned on Visser for most of that time.

“I thought he got real deep post position at times. There were some times, early on, when we crowded him enough to get him off balance. In the second half, he missed some good looks, whether it was us or him wearing down,” Leitao said. “He got two fouls early, and I thought that disrupted his flow, too. We challenged our guys, and I thought we did a decent job of defending him with our help and with our big guys. For him, as good a scorer as he is and as good a post player, to only come up with 8 points was a credit to what we did.”

The Demon Deacons had trouble disrupting the Hoos’ flow during the game as the Cavaliers shot 52.7% from the field (11-22, 50% from 3-point land). Reynolds and Singletary did the damage in the first half, scoring 37 of Virginia’s 40 points. That prompted Prosser to try a triangle and two defense to start the second half, a tactic that Mamadi Diane shredded with two 3-pointers and an assist to Mikalauskas. Cain also hit a jumper during the key stretch.

That helped UVa quickly jump out to a 50-40 lead in the second half, a working margin that was never truly threatened.

“It’s a respect for the two guys who scored the 37 points and disrespect for the other guys that should be giving us more balance. And Mo and Jason did a really good job,” Leitao said of the gimmick defense. “We just continued to run our little motion sets, and through that, guys found open spots. Mo made back-to-back 3s and essentially – from up 2 at half time to up 8 or 10 – that’s the story of the game.”

Prosser said he had to try something.

“Did you see the first half? Those two kids had 37 out of the 40 points. We had to try something. What we were doing with those two kids in the first half wasn’t working,” Prosser said. “The theory being try to make someone else beat us and obviously Diane hit a couple, Cain hit one, but that is why we did it – they had 37 out of 40 points; those two kids. That’s a gamble we took. Give Virginia credit because other kids stepped up and made shots.”

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