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ACC tournament: Virginia collapses in overtime loss to Miami

By Mark Giannotto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2011; 12:26 AM

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Close to 30 minutes had passed since the final buzzer sounded on Virginia's 69-62 overtime loss to Miami on Thursday afternoon, but Cavaliers guard Sammy Zeglinski remained in front of his locker with his head buried in his hands, struggling to grasp one of the biggest collapses the ACC tournament has ever seen.

Leading by 10 with 42 seconds left in regulation, Virginia committed four turnovers, and the turnovers helped the Hurricanes force overtime after they scored 10 points in 21 seconds.

In overtime, the Hurricanes outscored Virginia 16-9.

"It's tough to wrap your finger around. I don't know how to explain it. I don't know what to say," Zeglinski said. "We gave them the game. Bottom line, we played well the whole second half besides probably the last minute, and it cost us the game."

Zeglinski's dejection was understandable, considering he was a principal character in a seemingly implausible sequence of events that teammate Jontel Evans could describe only as a "whirlwind."

With the Cavaliers nursing what seemed to be a comfortable lead thanks to a 20-2 run that spanned nearly eight minutes of the second half, senior Mustapha Farrakhan hit 1 of 2 free throws to give Virginia a 53-43 lead.

On the ensuing possession, Miami's Durand Scott hit a three-pointer.

Zeglinski followed by missing two free throws. Seven seconds later, guard Malcolm Grant (16 points) made another three-pointer and Virginia's lead was four.

Then Zeglinski committed a turnover, and Grant fed forward Julian Gamble for a dunk that made the score 53-51. Coach Tony Bennett called a 30-second timeout to try to calm his team, but it made little difference.

Out of the break, Evans threw his inbounds pass directly into the hands of Scott, who then hit a layup to tie the score at 53 and was fouled in the process with13 seconds remaining.

Scott missed his free throw, but Virginia did not get its bearings. After Zeglinski gathered the rebound, he collided with Farrakhan and dribbled the ball off his teammate's foot and out of bounds.

Miami had a chance to end the game, but Grant had the ball slip out of his hands on a shot attempt with 1.3 seconds left.

By that point, the damage to the Cavaliers' psyche had been done.

During the huddle between the end of regulation and overtime, Bennett said he noticed his team was "deflated" and "you could see a bit of a dazed look in their eye."

The Hurricanes, who made just two field goals and scored just eight points through the first 18 minutes of the second half, seized their unexpected opportunity.

"It's ridiculous. I've never been a part of something like that," Evans said afterward. "You're thinking so many thoughts, like 'I can't believe this happened.' Mistake after mistake after mistake and you're up 10 with [42 seconds] left and just give the game away; it's tough on us right now. It's tough to talk about."

Farrakhan led Virginia with 14 points; Zeglinski added 13.

Miami will take on No. 1 seed North Carolina in a quarterfinal matchup Friday afternoon. Virginia, meantime, will likely move on to another postseason tournament, whether it's the National Invitation Tournament or something else.

Thursday's game was reminiscent of the teams' Feb. 5 meeting in Coral Gables, when Virginia fumbled away a seven-point lead with 35 seconds remaining in regulation and lost in overtime, 70-68. The Cavaliers were a combined 17 of 38 from the free throw line in the two games.

During his postgame news conference, Bennett said he badly wanted to test his team, which had won four of its final five regular season games, against a team the caliber of the Tar Heels in order to gauge just how far his rebuilding project has come. Instead, he left Greensboro Coliseum shaking his head in disbelief.

"This is definitely a first for me," Bennett said. "Right now, I feel like we should be getting ready to play at noon. But we're not."

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