The ACC Coach of The Year award should be an interesting race this year and you can count Virginia Cavalier (14-10, 7-6) head coach Dave Leitao as one of the top candidates. Tuesday night Leitao's Cavaliers upset #13 Boston College (21-6, 8-5) 72-58 as the three pointers found their way through the net at a 57% clip for the Hoos.
Junior shooting guard J.R. Reynolds played one of the best games of his career with 28 points and 3 assists on the night. The Roanoke native was 4-7 from behind the arc and the Eagles didn't have an answer for him all night as he drove inside with ease and knocked down perimeter jumpers as well. The Cavaliers leaned on the former Oak Hill Academy star and he came through time and time again as he poured in 16 points by halftime.
Also having solid games against BC were freshmen Mamadi Diane and Laurynas Mikalauskas. Diane found his shooting stroke again as he knocked down some key jumpers during the game ending the night with 9 points and 5 rebounds (3-4 from three point range). Power forward Laurynas Mikalauskas coming off a broken nose he suffered in the previous game against Florida State also hit some crucial buckets for Dave Leitao's team and had 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots. The development of these youngsters has grown by leaps and bounds throughout the season as they understand that they can make contributions in other areas besides just scoring.
Point guard Sean Singletary had another strong performance guiding the team as he added 16 points, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Having somewhat of an off night offensively was Jason Cain who didn't log a single point but managed to grab 6 rebounds and play some strong defense inside before fouling out late in the contest.
Swingman Adrian Joseph added 9 points as he went 3-5 from behind the arc to add to the Hoos' barrage from three point land. On the night the Cavaliers were 12-21 (57.1%) while the Eagles were ice cold 3-16 (18.8%) from deep. Overall the Cavaliers shot 52.1% from the field while BC hit at a 35.2% clip.
The surprise of the game had to be the performance of center Tunji Soroye. The sophomore big man stayed out of foul trouble and came up big with 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots. Soroye hit the game's opening bucket and his confidence rose from that point on through the game. Getting a contribution for Soroye is a huge benefit to the team and with just a few games left in the regular season schedule Dave Leitao's team could use some added production for their big man inside.
Al Skinner's squad couldn't throw it in ocean but it wasn't simply an off shooting night. Their poor shooting performance was due primarily to the energy the Cavaliers had defensively most of the night. Tonight's game was easily their most impressive defensive effort of the season. Assignments were not missed and if they were Boston College didn't make them pay for it. While the Hoos lost the battle of the boards 27-32 their intensity on the defensive end of the court more than made up for it.
Craig Smith powered the Eagle attack with a team high 22 points and 9 rebounds. Freshman point guard Tyrese Rice was the only other BC player in double figures as he came off the bench to add 10 points.
Our HooNation.com Player of The Game award goes to Roanoke native J.R. Reynolds as he heated up the nets for 28 points and fueled the victory for Dave Leitao's team.
The Cavaliers will next head to Littlejohn Coliseum to face the Clemson Tigers (15-10, 4-8) on Saturday at 2 PM. Oliver Purnell's team is very capable especially at home so the Cavaliers have to come out with a hunger and determination to leave upstate South Carolina with a victory against the Tigers. Evidence of just how tough the Tigers are at home? They are coming off a victory over the Maryland Terrapins 89-77 on Valentine's Day.
-Call me a Homer or say I'm sipping the kool aid if you want but how come Virginia's Dave Leitao isn't getting much mention for ACC Coach Of The Year honors? Coach K and Roy Williams are having outstanding seasons but their teams are loaded with McDonald's All Americans and "can't miss prospects". Consider the fact that Leitao has inherited a group of players from Pete Gillen and has them playing .500+ basketball in the ACC. He has only 8 scholarship players on his roster while only having access to 7 of those players for most of the season. Already having won games over North Carolina and now Boston College the new coach deserves some praise and recognition for the tremendous job he's done early in his tenure as Virginia's coach. In fact the majority of the people out there were expecting the Cavaliers to finish at the bottom of the ACC standings this year. Leitao and his staff have made this team a winner on the court and off the court. This team is realizing its potential and then some while there have been no off the court incidents to mar and bring negative press to the university. All of those things considered Dave Leitao has my vote for ACC Coach Of The Year.