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Improbable run stuns Cavs

Virginia squanders 10-point lead against Miami in final 42 seconds of opening-round tournament game

GREENSBORO, N.C. - The game seemed to be over.

The Virginia men's basketball team led Miami (19-13, 6-10 ACC) by 10 points with 42 seconds left to play and looked poised to advance past the first round of the ACC Tournament. The Hurricanes, however, did the unthinkable as they stormed back to win last Thursday's matchup 69-62 in overtime.

"It's pretty hard to describe; it kind of feels like a whirlwind," senior forward Will Sherrill said. "When we were up 10, I was thinking we were getting ready to [move on to] play North Carolina."\nVirginia (16-15, 7-9 ACC) trailed Miami 31-25 at the half, but found its rhythm during the second period. Freshman guard KT Harrell scored seven points in four minutes as the team turned a three-point deficit into a six-point lead. The Cavaliers upped their defensive pressure and allowed just 10 points through the half's first 19 minutes. But during the final minute, the Hurricanes exploded to score 10 points in 24 seconds, forcing a 53-53 tie at the end of regulation.

"It really stings," coach Tony Bennett said. "I really thought our guys bounced back and defended well in the second half the way they needed. Offensively they were efficient. We felt like we had it, but didn't finish it up the way that you have to."

Virginia seemed to have the game wrapped up with three minutes left to play, when junior guard Sammy Zeglinski drained his patented corner three as the shot clock expired to give the team a nine-point lead. Senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan extended the Cavaliers' lead to 10 when he drilled the first of two free throw attempts with 42 seconds remaining.

The game quickly began to unravel before the Cavaliers' eyes, however, as Farrakhan missed his second attempt from the charity stripe. Five seconds later, Miami sophomore guard Durand Scott nailed a three to reduce Virginia's lead to single digits.

During Virginia's next possession, Zeglinski failed to convert on two free throws, handing the ball back to Miami. Hurricane junior guard Malcolm Grant hit a three-pointer following Zeglinski's misses. Zeglinski immediately turned the ball over in the backcourt, allowing junior forward Julian Gamble to slam down an emphatic dunk which cut the Cavaliers' lead to two.

"I don't think there is anyone in the locker room who is hurting any worse than [Zeglinski] is right now," Bennett said. "He did some other things that helped us today. When he hit that big three from the corner to put us up, I thought it was the dagger. But it wasn't."

Instead, Scott delivered the game's most decisive blow. He intercepted the Cavaliers' inbound pass and made a layup to tie the game, while also drawing the foul. He missed his free throw, and as both Farrakhan and Zeglisnki scuffled for the rebound, the ball bounced off Zeglinski's leg for the Cavaliers' third turnover in 10 seconds.

"We couldn't even come up with the ball with 11 seconds left in regulation to get a shot off to win it," Bennett said. "We really struggled mightily down the stretch. There was a little bit of a dazed look in our players' eyes."

The Cavaliers could not shake their confused daze in the overtime period. Miami scored 16 points with perfect 5-for-5 shooting from the field to close out its improbable victory.

"To end it like that is hard," Bennett said. "You have to have composure down the stretch. You have to make free throws and take care of the ball. When you don't do that you put yourself in harm's way. Before we got to that point, I liked what I saw, and then boom - it changed quick."

The Hurricanes' comeback was disturbingly familiar for the Cavaliers. Virginia had a five-point lead with 38 seconds remaining in the teams' previous game at Coral Gables earlier this season. Miami went on to win that game 70-68 in overtime.

"This one does sting because we had a similar situation in Miami," Bennett said. "When we were down in Miami, we were up by five and on the front end of a bonus, and then everything that could go wrong went wrong, and they had the finish."

Losing late leads was a trend this season for the young Virginia squad - one that may have kept it out of postseason play. Virginia surrendered second-half leads in four other ACC losses and did not receive invitations from either the NCAA Tournament or NIT. The team announced Sunday that it will not continue its season in any other invitational tournaments.

Bennett remains confident that with the return of senior forward Mike Scott and an added year of experience for the team's six freshmen, Virginia will improve next season. For the team's two seniors, however, the heartbreaking loss constitutes their final Virginia basketball memory.

"The fact that I played my last game certainly feels weird," Sherrill said. "It's kind of a shock. When you pour so much of yourself and your life into doing something for four years as me and [Farrakhan] have, the fact that it ends like this - it hurts a lot. I'd be lying to say it didn't hurt a lot"