Mamadi Diane didn’t shoot the ball well, but had 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 block.
Virginia’s hot first half shooting proved to be an illusion and not a solution as its recent struggles – the Cavaliers have lost five of their last six games – continued against Georgia Tech on Sunday. The Yellow Jackets rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat the Hoos in overtime, 92-82, the third loss in the John Paul Jones Arena this season.
The loss drops UVa to 11-7 overall and 1-4 in the ACC. The last three league losses have featured Virginia leads of 9 points or more in the second half, only to see the game slip away down the stretch.
“Coach keeps telling us that it is nothing physical … we start off great but once people go into the locker room at halftime and we get relaxed because we have a 10-point lead. We just don’t do well and keep our mentality and we get soft,” Cav forward Jamil Tucker said. “One half doesn’t win a game, you got to play 40 minutes. Coach has a motto that says ‘Every man, every minute.’ You can’t stop after the first half and get lax in the second.”
“I think after halftime we get caught up on trying to win the game instead of playing basketball. When you get caught up in just trying to win the game, your mind gets cloudy and you start thinking about other things. I think we just need to play basketball,” guard Calvin Baker said. “In the first half, we were just playing so freely and in the second half, everybody was a little tentative and trying not to make any mistakes and when we play like that, we’re not a good team.”
“We are not being resistant, we are not playing hard enough down the stretch, and that has been hurting us,” senior Sean Singletary said. “You cannot have excuses. It is a man’s game and you have to come out there, mind your P’s and Q’s obsessively down the stretch and we have not been doing that.”
During the stretch run on Sunday, Georgia Tech erased a 69-66 deficit by doubling up the hosts 26-13 in the final 10 minutes of the game. The miscues for the Cavaliers during that span were numerous. They committed three turnovers and missed four free throws in the final 5:37 of regulation. In overtime, defensive breakdowns took center stage as GT’s Matt Causey erupted for 12 points.
The Jackets’ guard took advantage of an ailing Singletary on the defensive end – UVa’s point guard said he has a hip pointer/hip bruise after the game. Causey used slow and low closeouts by Singletary to hit a pair of 3-pointers and drove by him after a screening series got in the ball near the top of the key. At that point, Singletary had played 41 minutes despite limited to little practice time.
“I thought it was obviously great play execution by those players. Our guys executed; we got open looks. I thought the execution was good,” Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. “We were throwing inside enough that we drew attention to the ball in the low post and our big guys did a nice job of kicking it out. He made the play; he made the shot.”
“Jeremis Smith has always been a good pressure release. He comes up and screens whenever I’m in trouble, and we definitely knew that Singletary had four fouls so we were going to go at him in the overtime,” Causey said. “I don’t know if Sean Singletary was hopping or not, but, if he was, it was definitely better for me because he is a lot faster than me.”
Calvin Baker scored 16 points, including 13 in the first half when he made three 3-pointers.
“Right now Sean is not Sean,” Virginia coach Dave Leitao said. “But he played a lot of minutes and there’s a lot of pressure on him to do a lot of things for us. The times that he paused and took a deep breath are the times that [Matt] Causey made him pay for it. When he plays like this, we need to be able to play through it.”
For a half, it looked like the Cavaliers would have their senior star covered. After all, the hosts were shooting the lights out, winning the rebounding battle, and limiting turnovers. The result was a 48-38 halftime lead.
The 9-of-18 showing from 3-point range proved to be nothing but a mirage, though. UVa made just 3 of 18 treys the rest of the way as the offense wilted after intermission. Without the bonus balls to bail them out, the Hoos made just 9 of 29 shots in the second half (31%) and just 2 of 9 shots in overtime (22.2%).
“Threes can be like fool’s gold because you can be hot and then go extremely cold,” Baker said. “I think we started to sort of live by the three and it wasn’t really working for us so we had to do other things but we just didn’t do it.”
“They just challenged us more and they got out in passing lanes more than they did in the first half and we didn’t counter that,” Leitao said. “There are a number of things we could have done offensively to get the ball 18 feet and down that we work on and do everyday that we didn’t do. We allowed them to get in passing lanes and as opposed to mentally continuing to attack, we just kind of backed up.”
Virginia returns to action on Wednesday at Maryland. The game is at 7 p.m.
(For complete coverage of the Virginia basketball team, please sign up for the Sabre Edge. Edge subscribers get exclusive analysis, features, and more!)