J.R. Reynolds scored 28 points in his first NCAA Tournament game.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Sean Singletary was smiling and laughing. J.R. Reynolds was sharing flying chest bumps. The bench was passing out high fives like candy at a parade. Virginia fans were rejoicing. It was that kind of day for the No. 4 seed UVa, which jumped out to a double-digit lead in less than six minutes against No. 13 seed Albany and essentially cruised through a dominating 84-57 performance.
The Hoos proved to be simply too fast, too strong, and too explosive for the Great Danes. The Cavs controlled nearly every statistical category: 53.6% shooting to 37.9%, 41 rebounds to 25, and 52.9% 3-point shooting to 30.8%. Reynolds, who erupted in the first half, led the way in his first NCAA Tournament appearance with 28 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 assist. Singletary, who turned up the offense in the second half, recorded 23 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds.
Cavalier coach Dave Leitao was pleased with the team’s effort.
“We played at a good pace on both ends. We were aggressive as we need to be,” Leitao said. “I look at the stats and anytime we’re at the 40% or below for field goal percentage defense, it means we’ve done some things right to disrupt the other team’s rhythm. Offensively, if we can get out there and get bodies moving up the floor, which allows us to make earlier decisions in the offense, it gives us confidence to execute. That’s been good for us all year long and we were able to do that today.”
The victory is the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory since the 1994-95 season when the Hoos defeated Kansas in the Sweet 16.
“Not everybody can say they won their first game by a large amount in the first round,” Cain said of the result in his first NCAA appearance. “It’s a great feeling.”
It didn’t take the Cavaliers long to assert themselves. They opened with a 6-0 run before running out to a 13-2 lead when Diane canned a 3-pointer at 14:37. The advantage eventually ballooned to 19-2, 31-11, and 42-21 before the Hoos took a 45-25 lead into intermission.
Sean Singletary poured in 23 points and 9 assists against Albany.
Reynolds, who has been battling a nagging hip injury late in the season, led the first-half assault with an outstanding shooting display. The Cav senior poured in 23 of the 45 points before halftime by making 7 of 9 shots, including 4 of 5 3-pointers. He also converted 5 of 6 free throws.
“It really gets our energy going, especially when we’re getting stops on defense too,” Singletary said of Reynolds’ performance. “In transition, I know where J.R. is all the time. When he’s got it going like that, there’s no option except to keep going to him and to ride the hot hand as long as we can.”
Albany, meanwhile, couldn’t get anything going offensively in the first half, a trend that continued through the first 10 minutes of the second half. At intermission, the Danes had made just 10 of 30 shots, which included a rough 3-of-15 showing from beyond the arc. An offensive flurry late in the game helped the final numbers a little, but Albany still shot 22 of 58. Star guard Jamar Wilson managed 25 points in the end, but the effect was merely cosmetic – Virginia had surged to a 30-point lead by the time UA started to find any rhythm.
Cain said everyone was focused at halftime on a strong second half after a 14-point lead slipped away against N.C. State in the ACC Tournament.
“I didn’t even get a chance in here and say it before five people said it,” Cain said. “It was a point of emphasis at halftime. We weren’t going to let this happen again.”
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