- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2004

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Freshman J.R. Reynolds hit some big shots last night to help Virginia end its eight-year losing streak in the ACC tournament.

Reynolds completed a three-point play that tied the game late in regulation and hit a 3-pointer in overtime to lift the Cavaliers past Clemson 83-79 in the tournament’s first round.

Reynolds scored a career-high 18 points — all after halftime — for the eighth-seeded Cavaliers (17-11), who rallied from an eight-point deficit late in regulation to earn their first tournament win since beating Georgia Tech in the 1995 quarterfinals.

Todd Billet scored 20 points and Elton Brown added 19 for Virginia, which advanced to face top-seeded Duke in today’s quarterfinals. Devin Smith added a key 3 in overtime and scored 14.

“Our guys just came back from the dead,” Virginia coach Pete Gillen said.

Vernon Hamilton scored 19 points to lead the ninth-seeded Tigers (10-18), who lost despite dominating the Cavaliers on the boards for the third straight meeting. The Tigers had a 42-32 edge, including 14-6 on the offensive boards, and scored 15 second-chance points.

But the Cavaliers played better defense and forced turnovers with fullcourt pressure to speed up the Tigers late. Virginia scored 15 of its 23 points off turnovers after halftime.

“We were down eight,” Billet said. “If you don’t get stops at that point, you’re not going to win.”

Virginia shot 43 percent but hit eight of 19 3-pointers. Clemson shot 41 percent and had 19 turnovers.

Clemson used a 10-1 lead to go ahead 62-54 with 3:08 left, but Billet and Reynolds each hit 3-pointers to start a run that erased the deficit.

“We just turned the ball over far too many times, and we didn’t defend the 3,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. “We gave Billet a wide-open 3 to start the run, which is pretty hard to explain, and it’s just a very difficult loss for our team.”

The 6-foot-2 Reynolds capped the rally by grabbing Shawan Robinson’s deflected pass against fullcourt pressure and scoring underneath with 49.6 seconds left. He drew the foul on Chey Christie and drained the free throw to tie it at 68-68.

“We just wanted to try to force some turnovers,” Reynolds said. “So we put the pressure on, and it helped us.”

Once in overtime, Reynolds and Smith came through.

With his team trailing 71-69, Smith grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Reynolds, who knocked down the straightaway 3 to put the Cavaliers ahead to stay with 1:42 left.

On the next possession, Smith took a pass from Billet and hit a 3 from the left wing for a 75-71 lead with 57 seconds left.

During that stretch, Virginia forced three straight turnovers.

The Tigers had a chance to tie it. After Smith’s free throw pushed the lead to 81-78 with 6.8 seconds left, Hamilton was sent to the line with 2.9 seconds to play. He made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second, but Reynolds came down with the rebound.

He added two free throws to seal it with 2.4 seconds left.

“He was great down the stretch,” Gillen said. “He was a little bit nervous early, but then he came back and had a great second half. We don’t win without him.”

The Cavaliers have now been outrebounded in 14 of their last 17 games. When asked about what the Cavaliers could do to improve on the boards, Gillen was quick with a quip.

“Dennis Rodman has some eligibility,” Gillen said. “[But] I don’t know if he could get into Virginia or spell Virginia.”

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