Tight Cavs Fall Hard To Miami

Virginia
Tunji Soroye, left, Ryan Pettinella and forward Laurynas Mikalauskas look on in shock in the final seconds of Virginia's loss to Miami. (Wilfredo Lee - AP)

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By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 22, 2007

CORAL GABLES, Fla., Feb. 21 -- The fact that Virginia Coach Dave Leitao leapt from his spot on the sideline nearly to midcourt, his arms signaling wildly for a timeout, even with his team up by nine in the waning seconds of the first half, offered a glimpse at the Cavaliers' approach Wednesday night. The underlying theme seemed to be a nervous one: Don't dare screw this one up.

Yet No. 24 Virginia did.

Winner of nine of its past 10 and hoping to get its 10th win in the ACC, its highest total in six years, Virginia lost, 68-60, to a Miami team that had lost eight of its past nine in a game that unraveled for the Cavaliers in the waning minutes.

Two three-pointers from Jack McClinton in the last 66 seconds allowed Miami to break the last of four ties and take control for the first time. Four consecutive free throws by Brian Asbury in the final 15 seconds sealed the victory for the Hurricanes (11-16, 4-9).

As Miami's cheerleaders rushed to join the players' celebration, the Cavaliers bowed their heads and hurried off the court.

"I wouldn't say we underestimated them," Cavaliers guard Sean Singletary said. "We just didn't show up to play."

The largely empty BankUnited Center proved full of perils for the Cavaliers (18-8, 9-4). It was a road game in a hollow building, and an opponent Virginia had beaten easily earlier in the month, leading by at least 11 the entire second half. No longer surprised by its success this season, Virginia's only fear was the dreaded letdown. Or was it a meltdown?

It was "a lack of focus, a lack of concentration," said Singletary, who led Virginia with 17 points. "We didn't take care of business at all in terms of the fundamentals of the game."

The Cavaliers collapsed in the second half after Singletary hit a three-point shot that gave them what had seemed like a commanding 12-point lead. Virginia, which dominated in the first half, hit just 6 of 22 from the field (27.3 percent) and was outrebounded 27-12 in the second. There were 17 turnovers overall.

Four Hurricanes -- led by McClinton, who had 14 points -- scored in double figures.

"Our kids stayed positive," Miami Coach Frank Haith said. "When you lose as many games as we've lost and face the type of adversity we had this year, this is a true testament to how hard they've worked.

When Miami's Anthony Harris sank a three-pointer from the left side with 9 minutes 32 seconds remaining, tying the score at 49, he pumped his fist so hard he performed a full pirouette. With just under eight minutes left, Harris then looped in a running jumper for Miami's first lead, 53-51, since early in the first half.

The Hurricanes did not relent. Denis Clemente hit a jumper with just over four minutes left to make it 58-all. That score held for the next three minutes as both teams struggled to get good shots. McClinton finally unlocked the tie when he sank a wide-open three, then nailed another with 25 seconds left.

"We just didn't have the energy," said Reynolds, who scored 13 points on 2-of-7 shooting and eight free throws. "We weren't focused on defense. They didn't have nothing to lose. They were just playing that way the whole game and we just didn't respond very well to them."

The outcome proved a surprise for many reasons, including the first half. Virginia dominated Miami more thoroughly than the 35-26 halftime margin indicated. The Cavaliers made 12 of 24 shots, hit 8 of 11 free throws and outrebounded the Hurricanes, 20-14. Virginia had five steals and six blocks. Everything except the score suggested the game was a blowout in the making.

Even so, Leitao said he was not satisfied. He said his team's offensive play made him uncomfortable all night.

At halftime, "I challenged them to be better," Leitao said. "We weren't. We were worse."


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