Virginia’s 23-game home winning streak ends with loss to Pittsburgh

Virginia’s 23-game home winning streak ends with loss to Pittsburgh

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The Virginia men’s basketball team was attempting to rally from a double-digit deficit late in the second half Tuesday night when the 21st-ranked Cavaliers again were caught flat-footed on defense, permitting Pittsburgh’s Carlton Carrington a clear path to the basket for a layup.

After the sequence unfolded, Virginia Coach Tony Bennett gazed down at the court, drew a deep breath and called a timeout that only momentarily delayed what had become all but assured. Uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns, particularly in guarding the three-point line, saddled the Cavaliers with a 74-63 loss at John Paul Jones Arena.

Virginia (19-6, 10-4 ACC) had its eight-game winning streak snapped after permitting 14-for-32 shooting (43.8 percent) on three-pointers. The Cavaliers, who got a team-high 19 points from Reece Beekman, lost at home for the first time in 24 games, ending the longest streak in the country.

The Panthers (16-8, 7-6) prevailed in Charlottesville for the first time since 1974 thanks in large part to forward Blake Hinson’s game-high 27 points on 11-for-19 shooting, including 5-for-13 on threes, to extend their winning streak to four.

The Cavaliers, known for their sound and stifling defense since Bennett took over 15 seasons ago, came into the game ranked second nationally in scoring defense (57.6 points) and tied for third in the ACC in three-point percentage defense (30.7).

“Pitt’s playing really good basketball, so credit to them, how they played,” Bennett said. “They were prepared. They were tough. They were physical. I thought we really had a difficult time handling the ball screens. We probably gave up four or five unforced errors in the first half that gave them threes, and you can’t do that against an offensive team like that.”

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The decisive stretch unfolded midway through the second half when Beekman, the reigning ACC defensive player of the year, went to the bench with his third foul. Pittsburgh proceeded to reel off an 11-4 run that included three three-pointers, capped by Hinson’s three for a 58-51 lead with 10:15 to play.

Later, Pittsburgh had three consecutive baskets to forge a 70-56 lead with 3:02 to play, sending fans streaming toward the exits as Virginia suffered its first loss since falling to Wake Forest on the road in mid-January.

“Really proud of our team,” Pittsburgh Coach Jeff Capel said. “They didn’t blink, fought throughout. Guys stepped up and made good plays. We got off to a good start, which was important for us because of the caliber of opponent we were facing, especially at home coming off a game when they scored 80 points at Florida State.”

But the Cavaliers also yielded 76 points on 51.1 percent shooting to the Seminoles in that win Saturday in Tallahassee. The Virginia defense continued to backslide Tuesday, and wayward three-point shooting (4 for 14, 28.6 percent) also contributed to the loss.

Isaac McKneely went 2 for 6 from behind the arc to finish with 15 points one game after sinking 5 of 7 on his way to a career-high 29. The sophomore guard came into the week leading the country in three-point percentage (48.0).

The Cavaliers also ended up with an 11-3 deficit in offensive rebounds. Pittsburgh owned a 13-2 advantage in second-chance points.

“Florida State was just putting their head down and trying to get to the foul line, but this team was picking and popping and shooting a lot of threes,” McKneely said. “That was a big emphasis for us — getting to the shooters — and we didn’t do a good job of that. … It’s hard to beat a team that makes 14 threes.”

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Repeated late closeouts on three-point shooters by the Cavaliers led to Pittsburgh making 8 of 19 from behind the arc in the first half and left Virginia trailing 35-31 at halftime. The Cavaliers had not permitted an opponent to make more than seven three-pointers in an entire game over their previous three contests.

During one particularly deflating stretch in the first half, Virginia surrendered four consecutive three-pointers, including one that resulted in a four-point play when guard Taine Murray fouled Carrington on an attempt from the top of the arc.

“As I’ve said, even when we were in this stretch and winning games, you always begin again,” Bennett said. “Every game, every practice, you start over. You say, ‘All right, are we willing to lay it on the line and be as tough-minded as we can?’ You don’t want success to soften you. You don’t want losing to discourage you, but you can never assume it’s going to be there because we’re rolling.”

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