- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was a number that reverberated around Nationwide Arena and around college basketball. Tennessee posted 121 points — the sixth-most ever in the NCAA tournament game — as it ran around, past and through Long Beach State on Friday.

Next up for the Volunteers is Virginia.

The Cavaliers made short work of their opening round opponent as well, pummeling Albany 84-57 behind J.R. Reynolds’ 28 points. After the game, Virginia’s players stayed at the arena to watch the first half of fifth-seeded Tennessee’s high-powered thumping.

“It was a great wake-up call for our guys to understand how good they are and how talented offensively and how much the [defensive] pressure can affect a team,” said Virginia coach Dave Leitao, who spent much of last night trying to devise a plan to slow the Volunteers. “One is to obviously guard the 3-point line. We’ve got to get back in transition and we’ve got to not let the pressure negatively affect us.”

The fourth seed in the South Region, Virginia (21-10) had little time to celebrate its first NCAA tournament victory since 1995 with only a day to prepare for the second round. The Cavaliers, who are back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001, got some precious rest before getting back to work and holding an afternoon practice yesterday inside Nationwide Arena.

Today’s matchup will pit speed against speed as both teams prefer to score in transition. The winner will meet top-seeded Ohio State, which advanced by beating ninth-seeded Xavier in overtime yesterday, next Thursday in San Antonio.

Virginia’s attack — which averages 77.1 points a game — is built on a pair of ultra-quick guards in Reynolds and Sean Singletary. One of the few teams that likes to play at an even more frenetic pace is Tennessee (23-10), which average 80.9 points and is led by SEC player of the year Chris Lofton, who averages 20.7 points a game.

“We’re not really concerned because we play defense and it’s not going to be a shootout because we do our job and they are not going to be able to get too many shots up or comfortable shots up,” said Singletary, who scored 23 points in the win over Albany. “We have to get up in their jerseys and play tough defense and not pay attention to anything else. We don’t think it’s going to be a shootout because of our defense, but we are going to put points on the board in transition.”

One key factor likely will be Jason Cain, the Cavaliers’ 6-foot-9 senior who will be critical in breaking the press and slowing the fast break of the Volunteers. Reynolds and Singletary likely will carry the scoring load, but the contest could come down to Cain establishing himself down low as major presence and getting rebounds.

“We really have to be poised against the press,” Cain said. “It really seemed like Long Beach was trying to outrun them. … We need to be poised, go fast sometimes when it is available and also slow it down when it’s available as well.”

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