Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Hilltoppers pull away and win, 78-68

A good game, but another loss as the Virginia Cavaliers fall to 6-5 on the season and ACC play on the horizon.

It wasn't going to be easy. Much like Northwestern, this game could have gone either way. Virginia was able to take care of the Wildcats earlier this year, but this time the road, the shots, and the team ultimately proved to be too much. Anthony Winchester, who had a huge game the first go around against the Cavaliers was able to repeat with 23 points, 12 in the final 6 minutes of the game when it matters most. G Courtney Lee was unstoppable as well, picking up 21 points and 7 rebounds. When Virginia kept it close it was these two men who were able to pull away, making clutch shots and denying Singletary and company open shots.

Captains Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds continued to show their wide array of scoring ability, scoring 20 and 26 respectively. C Jason Cain continued his strong offensive showing with 10 points but was only able to pull down 3 rebounds. Instead it was Lars Mikalauskas pulling down the boards with 9 to go along with 8 points. In the end, all these performances were for not but it was not for lack of effort. The Hilltoppers were able to extend the lead many times in the first and second half, but every time Virginia responded. With 8:57 to go Western Kentucky pushed ahead to a 7-point lead (60-53) and looked to be cruising when Virginia's offense kicked into gear and trailed 62-60 with 6:14 left. From then on it was the Winchester show, hitting shot after shot and closing the door to a victory. For the Hilltoppers they continue their impressive home court dominance and are 8-4 on the season.

The scary statistic for Virginia was that WKU shot 55.2% from the floor. For the Cavaliers, a team that is being built upon defense, that number is unacceptable. With an offense that is sporadic at best, UVa will have to keep teams on the lower ends of the scoring spectrum if they have any chance of staying competitive in ACC play...which just so happens to be up next. Virginia's season continues Saturday when the Cavaliers faceoff against Clemson in their conference home opener. Clemson comes into Charlottesville hot of the heels of a close victory over Florida State. Pete Gillen made a career over beating Clemson, winning the last 4 match ups. His first ACC tournament victory came over Clemson. Nevertheless, head coach Oliver Purnell has his team back in the mix in the ACC. Still with recent memories of a sweep of Maryland and a tough, close contest with national champions UNC, Clemson looks to avoid the cellar and prove they are the real deal. Virginia will not have many winnable ACC games, but this one proves to be one of their best shots. It won't be easy, but it will be necessary for Virginia if they are to progress. Until then, the Cavaliers will continue to work on their defense and rebounding. Hopefully, it will be just enough.


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