Eagles Bounce Hoos From ACC Tourney

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Mamadi Diane scored a team-high 24 points in his final game as a Cavalier.

In an all too familiar script, Virginia got down early and was unable to complete the comeback as the Eagles knocked the Cavaliers from the ACC Tournament on Thursday night with a 76-63 win.

“It’s always difficult to end the season,” Virginia coach Dave Leitao told the Virginia Sports Radio Network after the loss. “We have to go home, so that’s disappointing. You get reflective obviously about the season and at 10-18 I don’t think we obviously played our best basketball. Obviously there are some reasons for that and something we’ve got to continue to figure out.”

The season-ending loss to the Eagles fittingly contained all of the Cavaliers’ familiar woes: offensive struggles, ball-handling issues, and porous interior defense.

Leitao agreed that it was a combination of factors that doomed Virginia’s effort.

“One, I thought we were a little step slow,” Leitao said. “Effort-wise I thought we were decent enough but we were a step slow in a lot of different areas whether it was rebounding or location defensively or execution offensively. I think we weren’t the most aggressive team today although I don’t think we lacked for effort. We weren’t the first boxer in the ring punching. I think when you do that against a good team, especially Boston College who plays as good of basketball as any team that we’ve played from a confidence standpoint then obviously they make you pay.”

Boston College thoroughly dominated Virginia in the opening half, controlling the boards and the tempo of the game. The Eagles capitalized on their 10 offensive rebounds with 17 second chance points compared to Virginia’s eight. Also hindering the Cavaliers’ first-half efforts were their struggles at the stripe. Virginia shot a dismal 2 for 9 from the free-throw line, many of which came in key moments.

The Eagles had no trouble penetrating UVa’s defense, racking up 36 points in the paint. Conversely Virginia struggled with penetrating passes once again, an issue which Leitao has cited on multiple occasions. The Hoos’ offensive effort came primarily from the perimeter as Virginia jacked up 18 shots from beyond the arc.

Turnovers continued to be a problem for Virginia as well, partially accumulated on repetitive traveling calls on fast breaks. The Cavaliers turned the ball over 20 times compared to 14 for the Eagles. Additionally, the turnovers came at key moments in the game, seemingly every time the Cavaliers attempted to go on a run.

Mamadi Diane , meanwhile, continued his hot hand for the Cavs by tallying 24 points, including a quarter of 3-pointers in the loss to lead Virginia. In the senior’s final game, he became the 42nd player in Cavalier history to score 1,000 points. Diane wasn’t the only senior to make his mark on the Virginia record books in his final contest. Tunji Soroye , the team’s only other senior, climbed into eighth place in Cavalier history with his 96th career block.

Tunji Soroye moved into eighth all time on Virginia’s career blocks list in his final game.

For his seniors, Leitao said, this final game offers a chance to reflect on their careers.

“It’s a time to reflect and as I said to the guys, to Mo and to Tunji, they’ve given this university some marvelous moments, some great memories that they can take with them,” Leitao said. “They’ve also obviously had life experiences which are filled with highs and lows and they’ll be able to take that and hopefully take that and use that in the next stage of their life and be better people for it. And if that has happened for both of them then they can look back on this experience as a positive one.”

For Diane, the senior guard did nearly everything he could to prolong his career another day, including hitting big 3-point shots down the stretch to keep Virginia mathematically in the game.

“The game was manageable from a points standpoint but we were climbing uphill and that’s a hard grind to manage if you’re not making all the plays or even turnovers, it becomes a harder hill to climb over,” Leitao told reporters after the game.

With that, Leitao effectively summed up the entire season: an uphill battle from the beginning, Virginia repeatedly failed to make the adjustments necessary to climb over the hump.

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