Thursday, March 23, 2006

Season on the Brink pt. 2

After the loss to Fordham, Virginia basketball was in a severe trough. A road game at Gonzaga was not want anyone wanted, but it proved to be more than anyone anticipated either. With an exam break to recover from injuries, Sean Singletary played the game of his career against Adam Morrisson and the Bulldogs. While many NBA scouts were there to watch Morrisson it was Singletary who stole the show with 35 points and 6 steals. Virginia played one of its better road games all season considering their woes outside of the state of Virginia, but it was not enough. A late run by Gonzaga gave them a comfortable 80-69 victory, not indicative of the battle Virginia truly gave the eventual WCC champions. Virginia was now 3-4, with three straight losses. Thankfully for the Cavaliers, some easier competition was on the horizon.

Virginia cruised past Loyola of Maryland 98-59 to even their record to 4-4. The offense Virginia fans begged for all season shined through in the first half when the Cavaliers registered 60 points and led by 31 points at the break. J.R. Reynolds had 25 points and Adrian Joseph had 24, an amazing feat for the sophomore from Trinidad. Joseph's inability to produce these kinds of numbers on the road remains a problem Virginia must look to fix next season. Jason Cain registered another double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Perhaps the most important stat was Singletary only had 4 points. Unlike Fordham, this time the role players stepped up and Virginia looked better than it had all season.

UMBC and Hartford were two American East teams that gave Virginia all it could handle. Although the Cavaliers won both contests, both were by much closer margins than people had predicted. Reynolds proved to be the difference in the 77-66 win over UMBC with 20 point, 14 of them were in the second half. Singletary followed suit in the Hartford game, with 13 of his 22 points coming in the second half. Joseph had 15 and Reynolds, 13 points. Virginia had pushed its record up to 6-4, but now they had a tough contest against Western Kentucky. A game Virginia had to win in overtime at home last year.

The Western Kentucky game stood as an example of what Virginia was about all season. The Cavaliers fell behind early on the road and clawed back in it. The Cavaliers got it to within two (62-60) but could not make the big shots late and Western Kentucky did. Virginia had to rely almost solely on J.R. and Sean who scored 46 of the team's 68 points. Joseph had 2 points on 1-6 shooting and while Jason Cain had 10 points he only had 3 rebounds. Virginia was now 6-5 and back in the ACC grind.

Pete Gillen didn't win many games in the ACC, but he absolutely owned Clemson. The Tigers at home was seen as a winnable game by most. Virginia played like it too. The game went back and forth but Virginia led most of the contest. When the Cavaliers appeared to be pulling away late in the game, the Tigers made a tremendous charge. Cliff Hammonds gave the Tigers a 53-52 lead before Cain made some free throws to give Virginia the lead back. The Tigers got a three point play however from Hammonds to give Clemson a 56-55 lead with only 1:33 to go. Virginia was in could not afford to go 0-2 in the ACC. This was one of those games Virginia had to pull out, and they did. Singletary hit a hgue jumper to reclaim the lead, then it was a foul game where he and Reynolds made clutch shots and insured Virginia's first ACC victory on the year. At 7-5, 1-1 in the ACC Virginia was still looking solid, but now the ACC season had truly begun.


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