- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2007

CHARLOTTESVILLE — In an in-state fight to keep at least a share of the lead in the ACC, Virginia reigned from long distance.

The Cavaliers put on a show from 3-point range to dispatch Virginia Tech 69-56 before a raucous crowd at John Paul Jones Arena. Virginia made 10 of 16 3-pointers and improved to 11-4 in the conference and 20-8 overall.

Later in the night, the Cavaliers moved into first place by themselves when North Carolina lost at Georgia Tech. If Virginia wins at Wake Forest tomorrow, it will win its first ACC regular-season title outright since 1981.

Sean Singletary (17 points) and Mamadi Diane (13 points) each went 3-for-4 from 3-point range for the Cavaliers, who completed an 8-0 home ACC season. Their only home loss all season was to Stanford in January.

“We have a chance on Saturday to do something very special,” said Virginia coach Dave Leitao, who has turned the Cavaliers around in only his second season in Charlottesville. “I was joking with some people that a lot of people will remember our first game here [at the new arena]; well even more will talk about it and remember if we can take care of our business and call ourselves ACC champs.”

Meanwhile, the 21st-ranked Hokies (20-9, 10-5 ACC) dropped into a tie for second with UNC and Boston College. Virginia Tech made only two of 15 3-pointers (13 percent). Zabian Dowdell (17 points, 1-for-6 on 3-pointers) willed the Hokies back into the game in the first half, but his team never really threatened after Virginia took a 12-point lead shortly before intermission.

The Cavaliers avenged an 84-57 loss to Virginia Tech on Feb. 10 in Blacksburg. Both teams are assured of first-round byes as top four seeds in the conference tournament.

The Hokies’ cause was hurt with guard Jamon Gordon saddled with foul trouble. He picked up his fourth foul with 13:42 left and finished with six points in 21 minutes. Virginia Tech’s A.D. Vassallo, who had 22 points in the first matchup when he made four of six 3-pointers, went 0-for-4 from 3-point range last night.

“Our defense was terrific,” Leitao said. “We really cut out their transition offense, which really hurt us last time.”

Virginia effectively won it in the first half. The Cavaliers led 36-28 at halftime after making six of 10 3-pointers and used a 16-2 run shortly before halftime to seize the momentum. Virginia started its big run with a stretch of 10 straight points. Adrian Joseph made a shot from NBA 3-point range and Jamil Tucker added a 3-pointer from the left corner to help the Cavaliers pull ahead late in the half.

“Any time you give a lot of wide-open looks to a team like that, especially with all the shooters they have, it is going to be a long game for you,” Dowdell said. “They did a good job knocking down shots and finding open shots. They made us pay.”

J.R. Reynolds, who had 13 points while making two of four 3-pointers and only one of 11 two-point field goals, capped the 10-0 run with a steal on the perimeter and a breakaway layup to give the hosts a 36-26 advantage.

The Hokies made a last-gasp rally, cutting what had been a 12-point second-half deficit to five. Virginia Tech scored seven straight and Dowdell’s layup in transition cut Virginia’s lead to 43-38 with 14:54 left. Deron Washington missed a jumper that would have made the game even tighter. Singletary answered with an up-and-under layup and Diane’s open 3-pointer pushed the lead back to 10.

Virginia Tech scored four straight to cut the deficit to six with 13:20 left before Virginia put the game away with an eight-point run. Diane and Singletary had back-to-back 3-pointers and Singletary sank two free throws to make it 56-42 with 11:01 remaining.

“We cut it to five in the second half and we couldn’t get a stop,” Hokies coach Seth Greenberg said. “We didn’t chase people hard enough over screens. We weren’t as determined as we need to be to run offense.”

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