- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sean Singletary got the shot he wanted.

Virginia’s All-ACC guard received the ball on the right wing as time was running out, and the Cavaliers trailed by three. He launched it with perfect form and rotation.

The shot rattled around and bounced out, and the Cavaliers’ resurgent season came to an abrupt finish. Singletary dropped to the floor after the miss, and Virginia coach Dave Leitao immediately charged out to console him. Meanwhile, Tennessee celebrated its 77-74 second-round victory in the NCAA tournament at Nationwide Arena.

“I thought it was good,” said Singletary, whose team led by 11 in the first half and rallied after trailing by 10 in the second half. “I got a good head of steam and a good pick from Jason Cain. I elevated and got a good look. It just went in and out.”

The Volunteers, seeded fifth in the South Region, move on to meet top-seeded Ohio State in a regional semifinal Thursday in San Antonio. The fourth-seeded Cavaliers, who were in their first NCAA tournament since 2001, had hoped to return to the Sweet 16 for the time in 12 seasons.

The game turned when Virginia guard J.R. Reynolds twisted his ankle late in the first half. The senior was having a stellar game with 22 first-half points but was largely ineffective after getting his foot caught on a Tennessee player. Reynolds had only four points while taking six shots in the second half.

“I didn’t have the same lift or push in my ankle,” said Reynolds, who had 26 points yesterday and 28 in the first round against Albany. “They started to come at me in the second half [with dribble-penetration]. I tried to put the pain aside and stay out there.”

Southeastern Conference player of the year Chris Lofton led Tennessee with 20 points but struggled under defensive pressure, hitting only four of 16 shots. He made up for his poor field goal percentage by making nine of 10 free throws. The Volunteers made their final nine free throws of the game.

Singletary also struggled from the floor — making one of his seven 3-pointers — but finished with 19 points, going 10-for-12 from the foul line. Virginia made only two of 13 3-pointers and shot 33.3 percent in the second half. Tennessee outrebounded the Cavaliers 39-29 and allowed only six offensive rebounds.

“The baskets that hurt us were more inside,” Leitao said. “We kind of had our heart broken and particularly for Sean and J.R., who had a two-year charge that a lot of people did not think was possible.”

The Volunteers erased Virginia’s 11-point first-half lead with a 19-4 run early in the second. The stretch was keyed by Tennessee’s fullcourt pressure. Ryan Childress’ long 3-pointer, followed by a pair of free throws by Lofton with 13:05 left gave the Volunteers their biggest lead at 54-44.

Childress, a reserve who averages 5.4 points a game, became a major factor after 6-foot-9 center Wayne Chism, the only starter taller than 6-4, picked up his fourth foul in the first minute of the second half. Childress, who also is 6-9, finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.

After Virginia’s Adrian Joseph hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 64-62 with just less than three minutes left, Tennessee’s JaJuan Smith (16 points) came right back and banked in a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock with 2:31 remaining, pushing the Volunteers’ lead back to five.

“I have no regrets,” said Cain, a senior forward. “I wouldn’t want to go out any other way. It was a great game. We were one shot away from the Sweet 16.”


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