Mustapha Farrakhan scored 20 points but it wasn’t enough for UVa.
Mustapha Farrakhan and the Cavaliers gave it everything they had at Miami on Saturday, but in the end gave the game away due to costly defensive mistakes and clanging free throws. The Hoos dropped an overtime heartbreaker in South Beach, losing 70-68 in overtime. Virginia squandered a seven-point lead with less than three minutes remaining, negated a nice defensive outing for much of the game, and just couldn’t seem to pull ahead during the extra period. The loss drops Tony Bennett’s team to 12-11 and 3-6 in the ACC.
The Hoos hoped to ride some momentum into the BankUnited Center after winning a nailbiter at home on Wednesday against Clemson, but senior Adrian Thomas paced the Hurricanes with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Rion Brown was a perfect 3-3 from the charity stripe, with all three shots coming in the final 14 seconds of regulation to send the game to overtime. The Hoos led by three at that point in the game when Sammy Zeglinski fouled Brown in the act of shooting.
“We played well enough, certainly to win that game. We defended well, worked the clock, got shots at the end of the clock, scored, didn’t turn it over, handled the press,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said. “I need to look at the tape. Certainly we said, ‘guard the 3-point line, don’t foul’ so that hurts.”
For most of the afternoon, the Canes managed to stay too close for comfort by spreading the ball around, and the Cavaliers’ inability to distance themselves came back to bite pretty hard. “I thought our quality was better [until] down the stretch with some things like silly turnovers, but there are some things that cost us,” Bennett said.
The Hoos managed to head to the locker room with a lead at halftime, despite scoring less than 30 points. The defense held Miami to just two points in the first nine minutes, which bought time for the slow-starting Cavalier offense. Miami was only 39% from the field and a win looked like a definite possibility for Bennett’s team, which has now dropped three of its last four games. However, despite a renewed focus on defensive principles, an epic defensive collapse in the final minutes of the second half allowed the Hurricanes to climb back into the game; Virginia committed not one, but two costly fouls on 3-pointers during the waning moments of regulation, negating the defense’s decent effort earlier in the game.
The Canes entered the overtime period with guns blazing, and didn’t relinquish the lead during the entire five-minute extension. The Hurricanes seized the lead with a triple from Thomas, while the Hoos missed their first three shots, including a free throw from KT Harrell. Virginia was within two points a few times during the final two minutes of extra time, but Joe Harris ‘ hot shooting touch went cold from both beyond the arc and behind the free-throw line. Harrell and Harris’ charity stripe misses in OT were part of a larger theme – UVa made just 9 of 22 freebies in the contest. The Cavaliers shot a season low 40.9% from the line.
Desperation fouls as time ran down did nothing to aid Virginia, as the Hurricanes were 7-9 from the foul line in overtime. Sophomore Jontel Evans , who finished the night with nine points and five assists, had the final shot of the game, a two-point jumper to make the final score 70-68.
Farrakhan and Harris carried the Hoos offensively for much of the afternoon. The senior leader had 20 points while the young gun contributed 18, marking his ACC career-high. Harris also had an overall career-high three steals. Farrakhan has scored in the 20’s five times this season.
Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers now have a much-needed week off until their next contest at Florida State. Virginia left valuable points on the court at the foul line. “We’ve been in games where we’ve won it because of our free throw shooting, but this time it cost us,” Bennett said. “We started out early missing them, and then there was pressure. You have to get over that”
The depressing 9-22 from the charity stripe, which, along with the matter of the defensive lapse at the end of the second half, will leave the nasty question of “What if?” lingering in everyone’s minds.