- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 17, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It began with a baseline turnaround jumper and was followed by a flurry of 3-pointers. Virginia’s J.R. Reynolds waited his whole career to play in the NCAA tournament and the senior made sure it would be more than a short visit with a lights-out shooting performance against Albany.

Reynolds scored a game-high 28 points in the Cavaliers’ 84-57 rout — the most lopsided NCAA tournament win in Virginia history — at Nationwide Arena. The Cavaliers’ catalyst broke out of his shooting slump by making his first seven shots — including four 3-pointers — and had 23 points by halftime.

“It really gets our energy going, especially when we were getting stops on defense,” said Virginia point guard Sean Singletary, who finished with 23 points and nine assists. “I know with J.R., when he’s got it going like that, there is no option but to keep giving it to him.”

Reynolds — who sat out much of the second half — made seven of nine shots, including five of seven 3-pointers, and added a team-high seven rebounds.

The fourth-seeded Cavaliers, making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2001, took their aggression out on the 13th-seeded Great Danes to quickly ensure their first tournament victory since 1995. Virginia, which had lost two in a row before yesterday, will meet No. 5 Tennessee, which crushed 12th-seeded Long Beach State 121-86, in the second round of the South Region tomorrow.

“People are hesitant to say Virginia has a shot to go deep into this tournament because they struggled down the stretch,” Albany coach Will Brown said. “But if those two guards shoot the ball like they did tonight, they can go a long way.”

The Cavaliers (21-10) scored the game’s first six points by establishing their physical advantage to go along with their superior size. They eventually jumped out to a 19-2 lead after back-to-back 3-pointers from Reynolds.

Albany (23-10) had hoped to pull a stunner after nearly upsetting top-seeded Connecticut last season when it came in as a No. 16 seed.

“We needed to find those guys in transition, both Reynolds and Singletary. Virginia excels when they can get out in transition,” Brown said “The other thing was to make sure we hedged hard on ball screens and forced them to give up the basketball.”

Virginia shot 53.6 percent and made nine of 17 (52.9 percent) 3-pointers while outscoring Albany 15-0 on fast-break points.

“I was just out there playing. I wasn’t really paying attention to anything,” said Reynolds, who has been limited in practice recently with nagging injuries and made only nine of 44 shots in the previous three games combined. “We were just out there having fun, particularly on the offensive end. Once we were making stops on the defensive end, everything else came through.”

The Cavaliers outrebounded the Great Danes 37-22, and scored 16 second-chance points to Albany’s four.

“Overall, I am very, very pleased with what we did today,” said Virginia coach Dave Leitao, who felt the tone was set with defense and rebounding. “Once we started the game and that happened, it energized us and allowed us to play better offense.”

Albany’s Jamar Wilson — the America East Player of the Year — finished with 25 points, but the Great Danes shot only 37.9 percent from the field.

Notes — Virginia’s last NCAA tournament win came when Jeff Jones was the coach and the Cavaliers upset top-seeded Kansas in the Midwest Region semifinals in 1995. …

Reynolds moved into 10th place on the Cavaliers’ all-time scoring list with 1,657 points, passing John Crotty, who played from 1988 to 1991.

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