Virginia Beats Hokies, Takes ACC Lead

Friday, March 2nd 2007, 6:50 am
By: News On 6

With one game left in the regular season, Virginia is the surprise leader of the Atlantic Coast Conference after Sean Singletary scored 17 points and the Cavaliers beat Virginia Tech 69-56 Thursday night.

The Cavaliers (20-8, 11-4), picked to finish eighth in the preseason, wound up 8-0 in league play at their new John Paul Jones Arena and took a one-game lead over the Hokies, Boston College and No. 8 North Carolina, which lost at Georgia Tech.

The Cavaliers need only to win their regular-season finale at Wake Forest on Saturday to claim their first ACC title since 1995.

``It means we've come a long way,'' Singletary said of the opportunity few thought Virginia could achieve. ``If we can get this win Saturday, it will just be icing on the cake.''

Losing consecutive road games in the conference for the first time in three years, the eighth-ranked Tar Heels (24-6, 10-5) missed a chance to hold onto a share of first place.

``We were just so bad defensively in the first half, but I still go back and say that just because you're open doesn't mean you make shots, and they made shots,'' North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. ``At halftime, I felt we were extremely lucky to be down seven.''

North Carolina will finish its regular season this weekend when it hosts No. 18 Duke.

``Hopefully, this will get us fired up for the Duke game,'' Tar Heels guard Marcus Ginyard said. ``I mean, that's what everybody wants.''

In the other Top 25 games, it was No. 2 UCLA 53, No. 13 Washington State 45; 85, No. 6 Memphis 78, UTEP 67; Utah State 79, No. 10 Nevada 77, OT; and Washington 85, No. 23 Southern California 70.

Five conference tournaments were also in action.

In the Atlantic Sun's first round, it was Belmont 79, Gardner-Webb 61; Campbell 90, Jacksonville 85, OT; ETSU 77, Stetson 61; and Lipscomb 85, Mercer 49.

In the Big South semifinals, VMI beat High Point 91-81, and Winthrop topped North Carolina-Asheville 79-60.

In the Missouri Valley first round, Drake defeated Evansville 101-96 in OT, and Indiana State edged Illinois State 68-65.

In the Northeast Conference first round, it was Central Connecticut State 79, St. Francis, N.Y. 61; Sacred Heart 100, Wagner 68; Quinnipiac 78, Fairleigh Dickinson 77; and Mount St. Mary's, Md. 78, Robert Morris 61.

In the Southern Conference quarterfinals, Davidson 78, Chattanooga 68; Furman 73, North Carolina Greensboro 71; Appalachian State 78, Western Carolina 59; and College of Charleston 77, Georgia Southern 66.

In Charlottesville, J.R. Reynolds and Mamadi Diane added 13 points each for the Cavaliers.

``Today the key was just playing hard and playing defense more than anything,'' said Diane, who had managed just 10 points total in his last three games. ``The offense just came.''

The win provided a bit of redemption for Virginia, which was blown out 84-57 by the Hokies three weeks earlier.

Coach Dave Leitao said he shied away from the revenge angle in talking to his team and anyone else that would listen this week, but ``obviously it lived in their mind-set, it lived in their spirit and they brought in a very workmanlike atmosphere today,'' he said.

No. 2 UCLA 53, No. 13 Washington State 45

At Pullman, Wash., Arron Afflalo scored 14 points to help UCLA beat Washington State in a showdown of the top two teams in the Pac-10.

UCLA (26-3, 15-2) wrapped up a second consecutive conference title. The Bruins had already clinched at least a tie with WSU, and the top seed in the tournament.

Kyle Weaver scored 14 points for Washington State (23-6, 12-5), which saw its hopes for the first Pac-10 title in its history end.

After trailing by one at the half, the Bruins made 11 of their first 14 shots to open the second half and pulled away from the Cougars in a game matching the top two defenses in the conference.

No. 6 Memphis 78, UTEP 67

At El Paso, Texas, Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 21 points and Jeremy Hunt added 19 to help Memphis beat UTEP for the Tigers' 18th straight victory.

The Tigers, who already had secured the Conference USA regular-season title, were lucky to escape the Don Haskins Center with a victory. Memphis (26-3, 15-0 C-USA) shot just 41 percent from the field and couldn't put away UTEP.

The Miners (14-15, 6-9) were within a point several times in the final 10 minutes, but were plagued by too many turnovers.

Stefon Jackson scored 19 to lead UTEP.

Utah State 79, No. 10 Nevada 77, OT

At Logan, Utah, Chaz Spicer made two free throws with 3.8 seconds left in overtime to give Utah State an upset, ending the Wolf Pack's nine-game winning streak.

Nevada's Marcelus Kemp missed an off-balance shot he managed to get off before falling out of bounds at the buzzer, but the ball missed everything and had barely landed before Utah State fans swarmed the court.

Stephen DuCharme led Utah State (21-9, 9-7 Western Athletic Conference) with 20 points and took the ball away from Nevada's Nick Fazekas to set up Spicer's winning free throws.

Fazekas finished with 20 points and Kemp scored 25 for Nevada (26-3, 13-2), which had already clinched its third WAC regular-season title in a row.

Washington 85, No. 23 Southern California 70

At Seattle, Ryan Appleby scored 22 points, hitting five 3-pointers, and Washington snapped a four-game losing streak.

Appleby and point guard Justin Dentmon combined for 24 first-half points, including seven 3-pointers. The Huskies (17-12, 7-10 Pac-10) hit nine 3s in the first half _ more than their game total in all but three contests this season _ and finished with 10.

Nick Young led USC (21-9, 11-6) with 26 points and hit 11 of 15 shots, but the Trojans lost for the sixth time in their last seven against Washington.