Deron Washington sunk this shot at the buzzer as the Hokies topped the Hoos.
The Cavaliers’ scoring woes continued, the Hokies’ Deron Washington made a play – freakish or not – and the Virginia men’s basketball team squandered a magnificent performance from Sean Singletary in a 70-69 overtime loss to Virginia Tech on Wednesday, the Hoos’ first ACC loss in the John Paul Jones Arena.
Virginia now has lost three straight games, including the first two of conference play.
“Obviously, it is disappointing to lose any game, and to lose a game like that is even more disappointing. At the same point in time, I told my guys, and I told my staff, and I told everyone that less than anybody I am not as upset,” Leitao said. “You practice for a particular reason. You practice to get habits, and when it comes time to play the game you get to display those habits. From top to bottom, there are many, many times during timeouts or during whatever that we are talking about simplistic mistakes offensively or defensively – boxing out, transition defense. Part of it is not learning the proper lessons everyday in practice. Part of it is not playing with enough swagger and confidence. We rely on things that other teams can and do take away. And so when that happens you get down to final stages of games, and you hope that things will happen instead of expect that things will happen. That’s what happened tonight.”
Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said the outcome could have gone either way.
“It was a hard-fought basketball game. There was no magic formula for why we won or why we lost. I keep on telling the guys, it’s one flight, it’s one stop, it’s one rebound, it’s one bounce of the ball. In close games it always comes down to one play, one stop; they don’t get a stop, one bounce of the ball,” Greenberg said. “These teams just compete at a very, very high level. Both of us are building our programs on playing hard and playing defense, and that’s what the game was all about. There’s nothing special that we did. I’ll say the same thing. It’s one stop, one rebound, one roll of the ball. That’s the difference between having a good ride home and questioning everything that you’re doing.”
The one stop, one roll of the ball in this one came as the final buzzer sounded. Trailing 69-68 with less than 10 seconds to play, Virginia Tech inbounded the ball in front of its bench, bringing Washington on a cut from low to high to receive the ball near the top of the key. Washington made a quick move to his left to get by Adrian Joseph and drove down the lane line.
When the help didn’t pinch down from the outside, it left only Mike Scott rotating over from the weakside block to challenge the play. Washington hung in the air and scooped a right-handed shot under the outstretched arm of Mike Scott to get the ball to the glass. The shot trickled along the back of the rim and fell quietly through the net to give the Hokies’ their first win in Charlottesville since 1968. It was also their first overtime victory in six tries against UVa.
“What makes Deron special is that he’s a freak, and I say that affectionately. He has the ability to make freakish plays. When he buys into that, he can change the game single-handedly, and he did that today,” Greenberg said.
“I had a pretty good idea it was going to go in. I think it rolled around for a minute and it made me nervous; then it dropped and that was it,” Washington said. “I had the confidence and I wanted to take the last shot. It was a set play where anybody could have come up and got it and I told them let me get it so I could go to the basket and try to get the lay-up.”
Washington’s last shot capped a second rally by the visitors, who trailed by nine points with 9:47 remaining in regulation and five early in overtime.
Sean Singletary ‘s effort – 34 points and 10 rebounds – was not enough to lift UVa to victory.
Virginia’s failure to put the game away was another chapter in a growing problem – the Cavaliers are struggling to score. The result is five losses in five games where the Hoos have scored 70 points or less (they were 6-6 in such games last season). On Wednesday, UVa tallied just four points in the final 9:47 to squander a 59-50 lead. In overtime, the Cavs led 69-64 with 3:34 remaining, but they did not score again as the Hokies rallied to win.
Those two scoring droughts reflected what was a poor shooting night by the Hoos. Other than a 14-of-23 shooting night from Ryan Pettinella and Singletary (more on his night shortly), the rest of Virginia’s roster combined to make just 10 of 40 shots. Mamadi Diane (3 of 10), Adrian Joseph (4 of 13), Calvin Baker (2 of 8), and Mike Scott (1 of 6) simply couldn’t put the ball in the basket consistently.
That meant the scoring load fell on Singletary’s shoulders. He responded with 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting, including a 5 of 7 night from 3-point range. The senior guard added 10 rebounds, three assists, and three steals as well. He essentially bailed the team out in the first half, scoring 23 of 38 points to give his team a four-point lead at intermission.
After halftime, however, Virginia Tech wore down Singletary with a lot of defensive attention that featured switching defenders, hedging hard on ball screens, surrounding any drives, and physically leaning on him in the lane. The result was less open looks from 3-point range (just two attempts after intermission) and relatively little space to operate in general. Singletary, in turn, had to set up his teammates and they didn’t deliver on a dismal shooting night.
“They double and triple-teamed me. They got a little bit more physical, but that’s just a part of the game,” Singletary said. “I was able to get into the defense a little bit, and get the other guys some shots. We just didn’t have shots falling for us tonight.”
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