By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Jan. 16 -- From his childhood to his time as a star at DeMatha, it seemed certain that Mamadi Diane would wind up wearing red and white and playing for Gary Williams. While growing up in Maryland, Diane's house was in College Park, and Williams lived only a few miles away. As a basketball player, he was reared on the Terrapins.
"That's what opened my eyes to this league," Diane said. "It made me such a fan of the ACC."
Diane, a sophomore, avenged two poor showings from his first season as a Cavalier against the Terrapins on Tuesday night, scoring a career-high 26 points in leading Virginia to a 103-91 victory over the team he grew up watching. Last year against Maryland, Diane scored two points in his first game against Maryland and nine in the second, combining to shoot 4 for 12.
Diane said Maryland was among his top choices coming out of DeMatha, and that he knew Williams personally and liked him since his junior season.
"It's always fun to play against Maryland," Diane said. "That's the team I grew up watching."
Diane also bounced back from one of his roughest games this season. On Saturday, he scored only five points against Boston College on 1-of-7 shooting, perhaps his worst in a string of inconsistent outings. Diane fouled out against the Eagles, and after the fifth foul earned a technical on the way to the bench by slamming the ball.
"It was all out of his own frustration," Virginia Coach Dave Leitao said. "Not frustration at the situation or the call, but at himself."
Leitao wants to rely on Diane as a third scoring option behind guards J.R. Reynolds and Sean Singletary, and he's shown why this season. He scored 25 against Arizona in the opener and tallied 14 at North Carolina on Jan. 10. But he sandwiched the UNC game with a two-point game against Stanford and the meltdown at BC. Diane, who entered Tuesday's game averaging 10.9 points, has scored in double digits in back-to-back games only twice this season.
"Mamadi is a real streaky guy," said Singletary, who scored 25 against Maryland. "We're trying to get him more consistent, and he took a step toward that."
After the technical foul at BC, Diane decided to refresh himself and his season. He spoke with his parents to put the incident behind him, and on Sunday he led Virginia in a voluntary 45-minute jump-shooting workout.
"I just tried to forget about it," Diane said.
The work showed Tuesday night. He missed his first attempt, a layup, but ended up making 9 of 16 shots, including 2 of 6 three-pointers and added 6 of 7 free throws. He also guarded Maryland's point guards, waving his arms and wagging his tongue. Leitao thought he was more aggressive Tuesday, which made him better.
The performance helped give the Cavaliers their third 100-point scoring game of the season, but Diane know he needs to prove he can do it on a consistent basis.
"It's definitely something I'm working on," Diane said. "Something I'm trying to get done."
Jamil Tucker scored a career-high 12, including three three-pointers, and Jason Cain added 13, his highest total since he had 12 against Hampton in mid-December, to go with 16 rebounds. Five players pitched in at least 10 points, only the second time this season five Cavaliers have scored in double digits.
"It just makes my job a lot easier," Singletary said.