By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 2, 2007; E01
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Feb. 1 -- There were the two heroes, awash in a sea of ecstasy they had created together, clutching each other as if they could never let go. Sean Singletary hugged J.R. Reynolds as University of Virginia students swarmed the floor, and the pair soaked in the sweetest moment of their careers.
Moments earlier, Singletary had somehow willed in an acrobatic, one-handed floater with one second left in overtime to give the Cavaliers a 68-66 comeback victory over No. 8 Duke at John Paul Jones Arena on Thursday night, the biggest win in Coach Dave Leitao's tenure and a victory that won't soon be forgotten here. While Singletary hit the biggest shot, running mate Reynolds set him up by scoring a game-high 25 points, 20 in the second half while battling cramps in his leg.
"It's never been like this before, at least not in my career," sophomore guard Mamadi Diane said. "I think I'll look back on this, wake up tomorrow in the morning and realize what we just did."
Singletary had sent the game into overtime and redeemed his poorest half of the season with an 18-foot jumper at the end of regulation, and with the game tied and 17 seconds left in overtime, he would decide the outcome once more. Guarded by DeMarcus Nelson, Singletary weaved his way around a Will Harris screen and into the lane, through a maze of blue jerseys and jumped, seemingly with nowhere to go as Josh McRoberts switched on to him.
"I knew I had the advantage quickness-wise," Singletary said. "I got bumped, and had to jump to keep my balance."
He leaned back as several arms thrust at his face and with his right hand looped a floater toward the hoop. As he fell on his back, the ball swished through the net.
"Ridiculous," Diane said. "It looked like he was parallel to the ground."
The crowd roared as Singletary bounced up and flexed his arms before Duke called timeout and set up its final play. Duke had one second left and, as the Blue Devils are wont to do, nearly spoiled the scene. McRoberts pegged a pass the length of the floor to Greg Paulus, who spun and found an open look from a few feet beyond the three-point line on the right wing.
He hoisted a shot, and Singletary thought it was going in, but it bounded harmlessly off the back rim.
"That was a long second," Singletary said.
Said Reynolds, "I'm just glad they got the time right."
And the celebration was on, the first court-rushing in the new arena's history. Harris, a freshman, cried as students mobbed him. Reynolds, a senior, thought, "Finally." He had beaten Duke for the first time.
Singletary finished with 17 points, but they came hard. He missed most of his shots in the second half, and hadn't scored in 16 minutes before he sent the game into overtime. Curling around a screen, the ball sailing his way, the score tied, the outcome teetering, this was going to be his moment.
He caught the pass, leapt in the air and let fly a shot from 18 feet. When it swished through the net, it redeemed his poorest half this season and, more importantly, extended the game for five more minutes.
The shot was made possible by Reynolds, who scored 13 straight to bring the Cavaliers to within two before Singletary's first big shot. He carried Virginia despite battling cramps.
The run was reminiscent of his 18-point streak at North Carolina State, but that one-man rally turned a close game into a blowout. This one knocked off the conference's standard bearer on national television and delivered Leitao his first victory over Duke in four tries and snapped Virginia's nine-game losing streak to the Blue Devils.
"Resilient doesn't begin to describe it," Leitao said. "I looked them in the eye, and I saw something that made me think we were going to be all right."