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Cavaliers Hang On to Topple the Hurricanes

Virginia 66, Miami 65

By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page D01

The Pete Gillen era at Virginia lived to see another day last night, but not until after the Cavaliers tried to do what they've done so many times during his seven years as coach -- collapse at the end. Instead, the No. 11 seed Cavaliers held on for a 66-65 victory over No. 6 seed Miami in the first round of the ACC tournament at MCI Center.

With Virginia clinging to its one-point lead with 22 seconds to play, Cavaliers guard J.R. Reynolds tried to lob an inbounds pass to teammate Devin Smith down the right sideline. But Reynolds didn't throw the pass high enough, and Miami's Anthony King intercepted.

J.R. Reynolds had 32 points, which gave Pete Gillen at least one more game as the Cavs' coach. (Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post)

Hurricanes Coach Frank Haith called a timeout with 18 seconds remaining to draw up a final play. Miami got the ball to guard Guillermo Diaz, who dribbled near the top of the key until there were only seven seconds left. He then drove the lane, but was double-teamed and threw a pass into the left corner for teammate Anthony Harris. Harris fired a three-point attempt but the shot was short and the Hurricanes missed a couple of tap-ins to end the game.

The Cavaliers (14-14), who ended their five-game losing streak, advanced to play No. 3 seed Duke in tonight's quarterfinals. The Blue Devils have beaten the Cavaliers in 21 of their past 23 meetings, winning two games during the regular season this year by a combined 33 points.

Gillen, who is under tremendous pressure after his team finished with a losing record in ACC play for the fourth consecutive season, will get to coach at least one more game with the Cavaliers. It was only Virginia's second win in the past 10 ACC tournaments; the Cavaliers had lost eight games in a row in the event before beating Clemson, 83-79, in overtime last season.

After Harris's shot bounced off the rim, and two Hurricanes were unable to convert put-backs. Gillen jumped on the sideline and threw his arms into the air.

"I'm excited about every game," Gillen said. "It's the way I am. I'm an emotional guy. It just came down to the last play and the ball was in the air. We were fortunate it didn't go in. The season's over if he makes the shot."

The Cavaliers were very fortunate Reynolds regained his shooting touch. The sophomore from Roanoke scored a career-high 32 points on 10-for-14 shooting, including 5 of 7 three-point attempts. No other Virginia player scored more than nine points.

Reynolds had struggled for more than a month, making only 7 of 35 three-point attempts in the previous eight games. He missed all six of his shots in the Cavaliers' last game, a 68-63 loss at Florida State last Sunday.

"Coming into the game, I was struggling a little bit," Reynolds said. "When my shots started going in, I got into a rhythm. My teammates did a good job of getting the ball to me."

Miami led 53-46 with about 9 1/2 minutes to play, but Reynolds scored nine of Virginia's next 11 points, cutting the Hurricanes' lead to 61-59 on his layup with 3 minutes 22 seconds left. Virginia took a 62-61 lead on Smith's three-pointer with 2:27 remaining, and point guard Sean Singletary's short jumper with 1:22 left made it 64-61.

After Smith stole an inbounds pass, Singletary was fouled with 41 seconds remaining and made one of two free throws to give the Cavaliers a 65-61 lead. Diaz made two foul shots with 35.4 seconds to play, cutting Virginia's lead to 65-63. Cavaliers guard T.J. Bannister threw a long outlet pass to Smith on the ensuing inbounds play, and Smith was fouled as he tried for a layup. Smith made one of two foul shots with 29 seconds remaining to make it 66-63.

Smith fouled Diaz with 27 seconds left so he couldn't tie the game with a three-pointer, and Diaz made both foul shots to cut Virginia's lead to 66-65. Then the Cavaliers really made things interesting when Reynolds threw away the inbounds pass. Fortunately for them, Diaz never got a good look at the basket and Harris missed.

"We didn't want Diaz to shoot it," Gillen said. "We wanted to pack it in and make somebody else shoot it. We wanted Harris or one of the two big guys shooting it."

The Hurricanes (16-12) squandered an opportunity to improve their chances of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Miami finished its first season in the ACC by losing its last three games and five of its last six, and will probably end up playing in the National Invitation Tournament. Miami made only one field goal -- forward William Frisby's jumper with 4:37 remaining -- in the final 10 minutes.

Diaz led Miami with 20 points on 5-for-15 shooting, and guard Robert Hite had 13 points and six rebounds.

"Obviously, it's very disappointing," Haith said. "We had a great opportunity tonight. If you look across the country, there were a lot of games that gave teams hope. On the bubble, off the bubble, who knows? I just know you've got a chance if you're still playing."

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