Story by Scott German
Georgia Tech’s Matt Causey scored all 18 of his points after halftime, including 12 in overtime, to lead the Yellow Jackets past the suddenly reeling Virginia Cavaliers 92-82 in John Paul Jones Arena Sunday afternoon.
The Yellow Jackets (10-9, 3-3 ACC), who were dead-last in the conference two weeks ago with an 0-3 record, are now tied for fourth with their third consecutive conference victory. Meanwhile, in a tale of two teams, Virginia (11-7, 1-4 ACC) has dropped five of its past six games, and under similar circumstances.
For the second game in a row, Virginia built a double-digit lead only to collapse in a second-half meltdown.
Against Tech, the Cavaliers drained 9-of-18 three-pointers on their way to a 48-38 lead at intermission.
The Yellow Jackets battled back and appeared to be in good shape in the closing seconds of regulation after a critical Virginia turnover. With the game deadlocked at 74-all, the Wahoos lost the ball near the top of the three-point arc, Causey picked up the loose ball and fed to Zack Peacock for a snow-bird dunk, making it 76-74 GT with 10 seconds left.
Virginia, with no timeouts, got the ball to Sean Singletary on the inbound pass. He drove the length of the floor, crossed under the basket and tossed up a rainbow floater that found all net to tie the game at 76 with 4.4 seconds left. Causey’s 3-pointer at the buzzer rattled around the rim and out as time expired, sending the game into OT.
Unfortunately for Virginia it was almost the last time Causey did miss a shot. The 6-foot senior guard nailed two long-range treys in the extra period. The lethal one being an NBA-range three that put Tech up 86-79 with less than 50 seconds remaining.
Georgia Tech may have allowed Virginia to develop a false sense of security with the Cavaliers’ 10-point lead at the break. That Tech would be so vulnerable to the three-pointer might have been a surprise, considering they entered the games as the conference’s best defensive team against the three, including holding ACC three-point leader Miami to 2-for-19.
Virginia, again relying heavy on its outside shooting, was left with few options when the shooting went cold in the second half. Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt pushed his defense out further in the second half, a strategy that worked as the Cavaliers were a dismal 2-for-14 behind the arc over the final 25 minutes of play.
“I told the team that if they (Virginia) hit half of the threes in the second half, there’s no way we win. We just wanted to extend our defense and force them out of their comfort zone, ” said Hewitt.
Virginia, on many occasions offensively, did not even look inside – instead continuing to bomb away from the bonus sphere. Virginia entered the game having attempted 82 more threes than GT despite playing one fewer game.
Virginia coach Dave Leitao said his team’s lack of depth in the post is causing some guys to play out of position. “With three of our post players sidelined, it’s forcing some of our players into roles their not comfortable with yet. We just have to continue to work hard and hope we can get some players on the floor,” noted Leitao.
Calvin Baker and Mamdi Diane each scored 16 points to lead Virginia, while Singletary, another of the Cavaliers’ walking wounded, scored 11 – but missed 14 of 19 shots.
Singletary played 41 of a possible 45 minutes, but according to Leitao “shouldn’t be playing but about 25” due to a hip-pointer. “Sean’s not Sean right now, he’s a little banged up, and hasn’t really been practicing fully, but he just goes out and gives it all he has,” praised Leitao.
For Virginia, even a 100 percent Sean Singletary may not be enough. Unless he can find a way to grow about a foot in the next few days. Up next for the Cavaliers is a Wednesday night trip to College Park to battle Maryland.