CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- With all the hoopla surrounding the
opening of Virginia's glistening $130 million John Paul Jones
Arena, the last thing the Cavaliers wanted was to send a sellout
crowd of 15,219 home with a loss.
They didn't, rallying from a slow start to open their new home
in stirring fashion Sunday night with a 93-90 victory against No.
The game even lived up to the pregame ceremony, which featured
Michael Buffer introducing the Cavaliers starting lineup and
delivering his trademark "Let's get ready to rumble," the
Virginia mascot rappelling from the ceiling with the game ball, and
a light show.
It was so much, Sean Singletary said, that it was nearly too
"It was hard," he said after scoring 25 points. "We struggled
in the first half. We didn't have the energy. We didn't have the
focus we needed. But definitely in the second half, coach got on us
like he usually does and we turned it around."
Mamadi Diane scored a career-best 25 points, including a
banked-in 3-pointer that put Virginia up 80-79 for its first lead
since early in the game. The shot became part of a 14-5 run to an
86-82 lead, and the Cavaliers held on -- barely -- at the free throw
Virginia made 7 of 10 free throws in the final 2:56, and its
victory wasn't safe until J.P. Prince's 3-point try from the right
wing rimmed out at the buzzer.
The Cavaliers also intensified on defense, which has fast become
a strength under second-year coach Dave Leitao. In the second half,
they outscored the Wildcats 57-41, limited them to 43 percent
shooting and outrebounded them 18-15 despite foul trouble.
"We said, 'We can't disrespect ourselves and disrespect this
program by actually letting another team, in our first game in this
big arena, this big event, let another team score 100 points on
us," Jason Cain said.
"As a defensive team, we really can't allow that."
The Wildcats were led by Ivan Radenovic with 24 points, and
Marcus Williams and Jawann McClellan with 18 each. Williams added
eight rebounds, but fouled out with 2:56 left, just after missing a
pair of free throws that would have tied it 84-84.
"They didn't beat us; we beat ourselves," McClellan said.
Coach Lute Olson said his team helped greatly by getting
Virginia into the bonus on free throws early, and the Cavaliers
converted 21 of 28 at the line in the first half.
"We need to learn how to play defense without fouling," he
said. "We need to work really hard on the defensive end and be
more of a factor on the boards."
Cain added 13 points and 12 rebounds for Virginia. Cain had all
but two of his points in the second half. J.R. Reynolds didn't
start after being poked in the eye on Thursday, but added 10 for
the Cavaliers, all but two coming in the final 8½ minutes.
"Magnificent," Leitao said of the inspiring start at the new
arena. But, he added, "The minute we don't play as well as we did
or we lose a game we should win, nobody will remember this, so
we've got to make sure we learn from it."
Virginia trailed by double digits for most of the first half,
but started the second half with a 12-4 run to get to 53-48 and
kept chipping away. The Cavs got even at 68-all with a 7-0 run,
capped by Singletary's two free throws with 11:04 left.
Radenovic scored seven points in a 9-4 run for the Wildcats, but
Virginia rallied again, drawing even at 77 on Cain's putback with
6:31 left. The Cavaliers took their first lead since the opening
minutes when Diane banked in a 3-pointer with 5:45 to go.
After McClellan's fourth 3-pointer gave the Wildcats the lead
back, Reynolds scored on a drive and Diane hit a pair of free
throws to give the Cavs an 84-82 lead. Two free throws by Reynolds
capped the run, and then the home team had to hold on.
Radenovic scored 11 of his points in the last 10 minutes,
including a 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:24 to play that
pulled the Wildcats within three at 89-86.
But Singletary fed Diane on the baseline for a short, floating
jumper, then followed two free throws by Arizona's Mustafa Shakur
by hitting one of two at the line.
Shakur hit two more with 12.5 seconds left, but Reynolds was
fouled with 8.5 seconds left, converted the second shot and
Prince's long-distance attempt missed.
"It was a storybook ending," Singletary said.
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