First, it was Virginia's loss to Georgia Tech Saturday, when the Cavaliers folded in the final minutes in Atlanta. Then it was 20th-ranked North Carolina State taking a seven-point lead midway through the second half tonight after Virginia had led at halftime. Cavaliers center Olden Polynice couldn't stand to see his team play like "kids."
Well, for the final 10 minutes of tonight's game, the Cavaliers played like adults, as Polynice finished with a career-high 27 points and an important basket in the final minute to help Virginia to a 69-60 Atlantic Coast Conference victory at University Hall.
"We knew we were playing like garbage," said Polynice, a 6-foot-11 junior who leads Virginia in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. "It was just embarrassing. We came out and played like kids. I was getting very worried, but we got together as a team and that was a big part of it."
Specifically, the Cavaliers (17-7, 6-5 in the ACC) came together on defense to move into fourth place in the conference ahead of the Wolfpack (17-9, 6-6). After falling behind by 50-43 with 12:26 remaining, Virginia applied man-to-man pressure that stifled the Wolfpack and held center Chris Washburn (14 points in first half) to only two baskets. "In the second half, they just dropped three men on me," said Washburn.
Washburn was helped by Nate McMillan's 12 points. Ernie Myers and Bennie Bolton each had 10 for the Wolfpack. Andrew Kennedy was the only other Virginia player in double figures with 12.
"Basically, we had to win with our defense, turn the pressure up a notch," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland. "We said: 'Let's see if we can score with our defense.' The key is not to panic when the game swings against you. You've got to get angry at yourself."
Said North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano: "It was like three or four different games out there tonight."
Indeed, both teams dominated at times. After falling behind, 6-0, Virginia played a good first half, shooting 60 percent to lead by 42-38.
But the Cavaliers came out cold in the second half, and North Carolina State scored six straight points to go ahead, 44-42. When it was 50-43, Holland called time.
With Virginia playing a tight man-to-man defense, the Wolfpack was forced to take shots with the 45-second clock running down. Virginia tied the scored at 52 on Polynice's three-point play with 9:13 remaining.
"The momentum started showing," said Washburn.
The score stayed close until there were 2 1/2 minutes to play and Virginia was leading, 59-58. Washburn missed a chance to put the Wolfpack ahead, and Virginia reserve guard John Johnson, who had been averaging 5.5 points, drove the lane and scored with 1:50 left.
"I was a little bit surprised he took a shot at that point in the game," said Holland. "But I prefer he take the shot in the lane."
Said Johnson: "McMillan wasn't playing me when I had the ball. He was in Olden's lap. I just said I was going to go in the lane and look for something to happen."
Polynice stole a pass by Washburn on the Wolfpack's next trip down the court, and scored on a running one-hander in the lane to give the Cavaliers a 63-58 lead with 59 seconds to play. Johnson made both one-and-one foul shots to put Virginia ahead by 65-58. Ga. Tech 59, Wake Forest 49
Duane Ferrell scored 14 points and Mark Price 12, including the first eight of the second half, to lead the No. 5 Yellow Jackets (20-4, 8-3) over the Demon Deacons (7-19, 0-13) in Winston-Salem, N.C. Price is 15th on the ACC's career scoring list with 2,027 points. Duke 104, Miami (Fla.) 82
Mark Alarie scored 18 points as the second-ranked Blue Devils (26-2, 13-0 at home) pulled away from the Hurricanes (12-12). Nebraska 66, Oklahoma 64
Brian Carr scored 18 points, including a 10-foot jumper with four seconds left, to give Nebraska (16-8, 6-5) a Big Eight upset at home over No. 10 Oklahoma (23-4, 8-4). Kansas 79, Colorado 74
In Boulder, Colo., Danny Manning scored 25 points as third-ranked Kansas won. Ron Kellogg made four free throws for Kansas (25-3, 10-1 Big Eight) in the final 45 seconds and finished the scoring with a slam. Colorado is 8-16, 0-11. Kentucky 80, Florida 69
Forward Kenny Walker scored 23 points and eighth-ranked Kentucky (23-3, 14-1) clinched a tie for its 36th SEC title with a victory over the visiting Gators (14-10, 8-7). Louisville 89, Florida St. 67
Milt Wagner scored 26 points and Pervis Ellison had 16 and a game-high 14 rebounds to lead No. 16 Louisville (20-7, 8-2 Metro) over visiting Florida State (9-15, 1-8). Va. Tech 88, VMI 73
In Lexington, Va., senior guard Dell Curry had 30 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the No. 18 Hokies (20-6) against VMI (10-15).