UVa. rallies, stuns Maryland, 61-58 in OT

uva-logo-new2UVa., down and apparently out in terms of its hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid, trailing by as many as 17 in the first half, somehow reversed fortune in the second half, forced an overtime period, and then got just enough in the extra session to win 61-58 over Maryland on Sunday.

The win pushes Virginia (21-10, 11-7 ACC) into the fourth seed in this week’s ACC Tournament and a first-round bye in the tournament being held in Greensboro. The Cavaliers will face the winner of the game between fifth-seeded N.C. State and 12th-seeded Virginia Tech at 2 p.m. Friday.

“We were very fortunate to get the win. I’m no dummy on that one, but guys did step up and make plays, and we got some stops,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett understated after the game.

The victory also lifts, for the time being, anyway, the ‘Hoos back into the discussion for a second straight NCAA bid. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi moved Virginia back into the last four teams in category, after having dropped UVa. to the first four teams out grouping after Saturday’s games.

For the longest time, this one looked as if it would end with the Cavs off every bracketology list. Maryland twice led by 17 late in the first half, and still led 32-16 in the closing seconds when, after a Maryland timeout, Logan Aronhalt airballed an open three-point jumper with 10 seconds left. Virginia’s Justin Anderson made an open three as time expired on the other end, narrowing the gap to 32-19 at the break.

“I think it was boost to the team just to see something go in the basket right before halftime,” said junior forward Akil Mitchell. “The difference between 16 and 13 points is a big difference just for morale and momentum, even if it was just a little bit, that was all we needed.”

Another Maryland mental boo-boo further opened the door early in the second half. After an Alex Len dunk that made it 37-24 Maryland, Pe’Shon Howard was assessed with a technical foul for taunting. Joe Harris made both ends of the two-shot technical to cut the lead to 11 and ignite a 10-3 run that brought UVa. back to within six at 40-34 on an Akil Mitchell dunk at the 12:06 mark.

An Aronhalt three at 8:58 extended the margin back to nine at 45-36, and the lead stayed in that general area until the final five minutes. After a pair of Len free throws made the margin 50-42, Virginia went on a 10-2 run that culminated with a Harris three that tied the game at 52-52 with 1:35 left.

After both teams missed shots on their next possessions, a Dez Wells floater in the lane gave Maryland a 54-52 lead with 26 seconds left. Virginia held for the final shot, and after a timeout, Justin Anderson, inbounding the ball, found a wide-open Mike Tobey under the basket for a layup that sent the game to overtime tied at 54-54.

The play called during the timeout actually had three options, Bennett said. “It wasn’t there. The second one wasn’t there. He’s the third option, just kind of like a quarterback. Justin, I thought, made a terrific pass.”

“They played it a certain way to take away the corner three, so that opened up a position. He sealed it, and certainly had the touch to make it, so no question it was a big play by both of those guys to make a pass and catch it,” Bennett said.

UVa. took its first lead since the first minute of the game on a Mitchell layup at the 4:07 mark of overtime, which became a back-and-forth affair until Tobey tipped in a Mitchell miss with 1:46 to go to give Virginia a 60-58 lead.

Maryland had several opportunities to tie the game or take the lead down the stretch, the final resulting in a Wells turnover and foul that sent Mitchell to the line. Mitchell sank one of two to extend the lead to three, but Maryland still had a shot to tie it at the end and send the game to a second overtime. But a Wells NBA-range jumper clanged off the back iron as time expired.

Mitchell led Virginia with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Harris scored 15 points on an uncharacteristically bad shooting night – the junior was just 4-of-18 shooting from the floor.

“I don’t know when the last time I had a night like that was,” Harris said of his night. “Even though I wasn’t shooting the ball well, in the back of my mind I still had a lot of confidence thinking that the next one I shot was going in.

“I hit a little bit of a rough patch there, but everybody is so optimistic, encouraging each other to keep shooting the ball. It’s hard to get down on yourself.”

Anderson scored eight points and had a John Paul Jones Arena record-tying five blocks.

“We needed that because sometimes, you know, we haven’t done a great job the last three games I would say of containing the dribble,” Bennett said. “We’re not the most athletic on the perimeter. Guys seem like they’re able to get by us, and get in the lane. When you can make plays like Justin can and cover up a breakdown, and come out of nowhere and block a shot, either his own man or a guy who breaks down or comes across the middle, those are huge plays.”

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