Column by Scott German
Virginia basketball coach Dave Leitao’s postgame press conference following Wednesday night’s gut wrenching 70-69 loss to Virginia Tech lasted just short of five minutes. Leitao was obviously in no mood to discuss, much less answer questions concerning his club’s latest loss.
What little Leitao did say may speak volumes about where this current Cavalier squad finds itself. “We don’t play with the swagger and confidence we need to,” stated Leitao. “When this happens, you find yourself hoping for things to happen instead of expecting them to happen,” added Leitao.
Confidence wasn’t the problem for the Hokies’ as they scored 22 points off second-chance shots. Virginia (10-5, 0-2 ACC) entered the game as second-best team in the nation in rebounding margin (plus 11.4), but was outrebounded by Tech 47-39. According to Virginia’s Sean Singletary, the rebounding advantage really gave Tech a confidence boost. “They kept beating us to the boards,” said Singletary who finished the game with 34 points. “They were confident going to the boards and getting a lot of second-chance shots. We have to go back to the drawing board and work on this.”
Virginia Tech (11-6, 2-1 ACC) limited Singletary in the second half by defending him on occasions with bigger players. On the Cavaliers’ final possession in regulation and overtime, they forced the ball out of his hands, and UVa. missed shots on both trips. The Hokies’ comeback from nine down started after Tech grabbed three consecutive offensive rebounds and scored on a A.D. Vassallo basket. Vassallo finished with 22 points for Tech and added seven rebounds. “Rebounding was the focal point of our practice this week,” said Tech coach Seth Greenberg. “We don’t have one dominant rebounder, instead we have a bunch of players who will go after them.”
So Virginia now finds itself at the proverbial crossroads. Losing to Tech in Charlottesville for the first time in 40 years, the Wahoos are now in a quick 0-2 hole.
One road leads to possible redemption as Boston College comes to town Saturday evening. The other path would lead the Cavaliers down an almost inescapable 0-3 nightmare. Clearly a road they do not want to be traveling.
Scott German is a SportsDominion correspondent.