-- In his first game as Virginia's men's basketball coach, Dave Leitao stalked the sideline much like his predecessor, but seemingly with the control Pete Gillen lacked and without the perspiration that often left the former Cavaliers coach soaked. Throughout Virginia's 79-44 victory over Liberty at University Hall on Friday night, Leitao stomped his feet and constantly moved his mouth, yelling at either the officials or his players, even when his team led by 38 points.
In the early minutes against the Flames, who returned only one starter and five lettermen from a team that lost by 44 points in consecutive games at Miami (Ohio) and Maryland last season, it was pretty clear what Leitao was looking for from his new team -- defensive intensity and hustle.
And, when Virginia's players failed to deliver, they quickly heard Leitao's booming, baritone voice, which sounded several octaves lower than Gillen's. With only a few seconds left in the first half, Cavaliers reserve forward Jason Cain failed to box out Liberty center Russell Monroe on a missed shot. Monroe scored an easy layup at the buzzer, and then Leitao ran out on the floor and loudly lectured Cain in front of the crowd of 8,076.
Midway through the second half, Virginia freshman Laurynas Mikalauskas was the target of Leitao's outburst, after the forward committed a turnover on a bad pass to point guard Sean Singletary, and later for allowing Liberty's Eric Bigby to grab a rebound and score on a layup with the Cavaliers leading by 23 points with about 11 minutes to play.
"I don't really play the score," said Leitao, the former DePaul coach who signed a five-year contract to replace Gillen, who was forced to resign after seven seasons. "A non-boxout up 30 is the same as a non-boxout down 30. You play basketball the same way and you look up at the end and see what the score is."
Apparently, Leitao doesn't care what the score is when he berates officials, either. After working official Sam Croft for most of the night, Leitao received a technical foul from Fred Williams with about 51/2 minutes to play. Leitao became irate after guard J.R. Reynolds drove for a layup and was slammed to the court by Liberty's Monroe, and especially after Croft failed to call a foul on Monroe. After Reynolds lay on the floor for a few minutes and got up, Leitao stared down Croft before walking back to the bench.
"I don't think they're pen pals after tonight, that's for sure," Liberty Coach Randy Dunton said of Leitao and the ACC officials.
In the end, though, Leitao seemed to get what he was looking for from his players. The Flames shot only 22.6 percent and missed their first 11 3-point attempts. Guard Larry Blair, who averaged 16.6 points last season, missed his first 10 shots and scored 13 points on 2-for-13 shooting. The Cavaliers forced 21 turnovers and had a pair of 13-0 runs in the first half that gave them leads of 18-2 and 38-13.
Reynolds, the Cavaliers' top returning scorer and best defender, played a big role in slowing down Blair and causing Liberty's inexperienced players to carry the load offensively. But when Reynolds got in early foul trouble, freshman Mamadi Diane, an All-Met selection from DeMatha High, showed he is not only a prolific scorer, but also a very good defender. Diane had 17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocked shots and didn't commit a turnover in 33 minutes.
"There's something about him," Leitao said. "I don't know if I've come to exactly know what it is, but there's something ticking inside of him. The sky is the limit for him and what he wants to do in this game."
Singletary had 15 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, and Reynolds had 14 points and six assists.
* VIRGINIA TECH 74, MOUNT ST. MARY'S 62: Deron Washington nearly outscored the Mountaineers in the first half, hitting 20 of his game-high 24 points as the Hokies won at home.
Washington was filling in for center Coleman Collins, who missed the game to return to his home in Stone Mountain, Ga., to deal with family issues. Washington responded, tying his career high in points and rebounds (10), set last season.