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Virginia still shooting for NCAA bid
Akil Mitchell scores 17 points and grabs 10 rebounds to lead Virginia to an overtime victory over Maryland in its regular-season finale.
Maryland center Alex Len goes for the basket against Virginia center Mike Tobey and guard Justin Anderson in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville, on Sunday. Virginia beat Maryland in overtime, 61-58.
Monday, March 11, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE —With all due appreciation for its 17-game home winning streak, the Virginia men’s basketball team hopes it has seen the last of John Paul Jones Arena for a while.
The Cavaliers, who trailed Maryland by 17 points on three occasions Sunday, rallied for a 61-58 overtime victory that kept alive their hopes for an NCAA Tournament berth.
It was UVa’s biggest comeback since Nov. 12, 2006, the night that JPJ opened. The Cavaliers overcame a 19-point deficit in that game and beat Arizona 93-90.
As much of a gala as the Virginia-Arizona game was, it didn’t have the implications of Sunday’s affair, which found the Cavaliers riding a two-game losing streak since a Feb. 28 upset of then-No. 3 Duke, 73-68.
Virginia’s victory, combined with North Carolina State’s loss Saturday at Florida State, created a tie for fourth place in the ACC race between the Cavaliers (21-10, 11-7) and the Wolfpack (22-9, 11-7).
Virginia won its lone regular-season meeting with NC State and will receive a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. The Cavaliers will tip off at 2:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of Thursday’s game between NC State and Virginia Tech.
However, the bye isn’t nearly as important as UVa’s second victory of the season over the Terps (20-11, 8-10). A loss might have resulted in a National Invitation Tournament bid, hardly an exciting proposition, even if it meant the Cavaliers could play at home.
There’s no assurance that Virginia gets into the NCAA field without at least one more victory, but UVa will take its current position over the 25-8 deficit it faced with 8:45 remaining in the first half.
The Cavaliers had trailed NC State by 11 points in the first half of a game it would win 58-55. That was the biggest deficit UVa had overcome in a victory before Saturday, and that deficit was down to seven by halftime.
Virginia trailed 35-19 Sunday before freshman Justin Anderson drilled a 3-pointer before the halftime buzzer.
“Just to see something go in the basket was a big boost to our morale,” said UVa junior Akil Mitchell, who finished with 17 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. “The difference between 16 and 13 might not sound like much, but it was a big difference at the time.”
The Cavaliers shot 33.3 percent in the first half and didn’t do much better in the second half, finishing 21 of 57 from the field (36.8 percent) for the game.
The Cavaliers were 4 of 16 on 3-pointers, following a 2-of-14 night Thursday in a 53-51 loss at Florida State. Joe Harris, the ACC’s leading 3-point shooter going into the week, was 2 of 7 from behind the arc Sunday and 4 of 18 overall.
“That was a rollercoaster if I’ve ever played on one,” said Harris, who missed his first three free-throw attempts of the game but finished with 15 points.
Harris hit his first 3-point shot of the game, missed his next six, and then connected with 1:35 remaining in regulation to force the first tie (52-52) since the game’s early minutes.
“He was struggling early,” head coach Tony Bennett said, “but he battled. You’ll never question Joe’s warrior mentality, how hard he’s going to go, what he’s going to do.”
The intensity of the defense was unmistakable, and the score remained tied until Maryland’s Dez Wells scored to give the Terps a 54-52 lead with 23.8 seconds left.
Virginia brought the ball downcourt, and then Bennett did something he hadn’t done in recent games. He called a timeout with 6.9 seconds left in regulation.
Bennett didn’t like what he was seeing, “so, I thought, ‘Know what, we’ve got a decent side out-of-bounds play,’ ” he said.
The first two options were Mitchell on a lob and Harris, but freshman Justin Anderson found 6-11 classmate Mike Tobey for a lay-up.
“They threw it in, my guy tried to steal it and let [Tobey] in for a lay-up — not very smart,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who had countered Bennett with a 30-second timeout of his own.
Tobey, who finished with 13 points in 26 minutes, also scored the eventual game-winning basket on a tip-in that broke a 58-58 tie with 1:47 to go in overtime.
Maryland had two turnovers in the final 32 seconds, the first leading to a breakaway by UVa senior Jontel Evans, who missed the layup. He redeemed himself on the next series by tipping a ball that Wells swatted out of bounds.
“I apologized to the fans for making it so stressful at the end,” said Evans, who was honored in a Senior Night ceremony.
Anderson said Evans broke down in tears as he savored the victory in the locker room.
“We’ve been 17 down before,” Evans said, “but we’ve never been 17 down and come back to win. I was thinking, ‘We better get it together or our post-season [hopes] are out the window.’ ”
Layman 3-7 1-2 8, Wells 5-18 2-2 12, Len 2-9 6-8 10, Faust 5-9 2-2 15, Howard 0-1 0-0 0, Mitchell 1-2 1-3 3, Aronhalt 1-4 0-0 3, Allen 1-5 0-0 3, Padgett 2-6 0-0 4. Totals 20-61 12-17 58.
Mitchell 7-16 3-5 17, Evans 1-4 1-2 3, Jesperson 1-3 0-0 3, Harris 4-18 5-8 15, Anderson 3-5 1-2 8, Browman 0-0 0-0 0, Barnette 0-1 0-0 0, Tobey 5-8 3-4 13, Nolte 0-2 0-0 0, Atkins 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 21-57 15-23 61.
Halftime—Maryland 32-19. End Of Regulation—Tied 54. 3-point goals—Maryland 6-20 (Faust 3-5, Layman 1-3, Allen 1-3, Aronhalt 1-4, Len 0-1, Wells 0-4), Virginia 4-16 (Harris 2-7, Jesperson 1-3, Anderson 1-3, Barnette 0-1, Nolte 0-1, Mitchell 0-1). Fouled out—none. Rebounds—Maryland 44 (Wells 12), Virginia 40 (Mitchell 10). Assists—Maryland 10 (Howard, Len 2), Virginia 9 (Anderson, Evans 3). Total fouls—Maryland 21, Virginia 14. Technical—Howard. A—11,794.
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