- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005

Guard J.R. Reynolds’ month-long shooting slump is finally over, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect for Virginia’s basketball team.

Reynolds scored a career-high 32 points and Devin Smith hit the go-ahead 3-pointer to lead the 11th-seeded Cavaliers past the sixth-seeded Miami Hurricanes 66-65 in the first round of the ACC tournament last night at MCI Center.

Anthony Harris’ 3-pointer from the corner in the closing seconds clanked off the rim to deny the Hurricanes (16-12) a win in their first ACC tournament appearance.

Virginia (14-14) advanced to tonight’s quarterfinals against third-seeded Duke (22-5) and kept its postseason alive. It also gave embattled coach Pete Gillen at least one more game.

The victory was mostly because of Reynolds, whose output tied for the third largest in Virginia’s ACC tournament history and was the most since Junior Burrough scored 36 against Georgia Tech in the 1995 quarterfinals. The sophomore made 10 of 14 shots to shake off a 15-for-67 (22.4 percent) slump over his last eight games.

“It was just a mind thing,” said Reynolds, who had come off the bench in the Cavaliers’ regular-season finale after starting nearly all season. “Once everybody was telling me, ‘You need to do this; you need to do that.’ I just had to step back from all that. I had to tell myself I know my shot better than anybody and there’s nothing wrong with it. I came in with confidence, and when you have confidence you can make big shots.”

The loss pretty much sealed Miami’s postseason fate. The Hurricanes lost for the fifth time in six games and likely are headed for the NIT, the ACC newcomer’s first postseason berth since a NCAA bid in 2002.

“We had a great opportunity tonight,” Miami coach Frank Haith said. “You look across the country, and there were a lot of games where teams had opportunities. This thing with bubbles — who knows? What I know is that if you’re still playing, you have a better chance of playing more.”

The entertaining end was a contrast to the first 15 minutes of the second half. The teams combined for 30 fouls after the break, including 26 before the final TV timeout.

At times, Reynolds seemed to be the only one on the floor able to do anything other than commit a foul or make a free throw or two. He kept the Cavaliers in it even after they fell behind 53-45, pushing Virginia within 61-59 when he capped his scoring with a drive at 3:22. From there, Smith hit a 3-pointer with 2:28 remaining to put the Cavaliers ahead 62-61.

But it was because of Reynolds they even had a chance.

“J.R. had a great game,” Gillen said. “Without him, we would have lost by double figures.”

Virginia eventually nudged the lead to 66-61, but Guillermo Diaz (20 points) made four free throws down the stretch. The last two came after a foul designed to help neutralize Diaz, a potent perimeter shooter, but Miami’s Anthony King picked off Reynolds’ inbound pass with 18 seconds left to give the Hurricanes a chance to win.

“Diaz makes 3s like layups and so does [guard Robert Hite], so we gave a foul,” Gillen said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the ball inbounds.”

Diaz got the ball early in the possession, but Virginia quickly double-teamed him. He dumped it into the corner to Harris, who then missed the 3-pointer to send the Virginia bench and the highly partisan crowd into a frenzy.

“I’m excited about every game,” said Gillen, who has endured murmurs about his tenuous job security all season. “I’m excited about playing dominoes. That’s the way I am, I’m an emotional guy. I cry when supermarkets open. It was exciting because it was a tough game, a big game. The season’s over if he makes that shot. It was an exciting win.”

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