Feb 23, 2002
By HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Virginia coach Pete Gillen had plenty of reasons for the latest loss in his 22nd-ranked Cavaliers accelerating free fall.
“Our defense let us down. Our free throws let us down. And our execution at the end … let us down,” Gillen said after Marvin Lewis’ 3-pointer with one second left gave Georgia Tech a stunning 82-80 victory Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets (13-15, 5-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) sent the Cavaliers to their seventh loss in nine games, and dealt a damaging blow to once highly regarded Virginia’s NCAA tournament aspirations.
The Cavaliers (16-9, 6-8) missed four consecutive free throws in the last minute when one would likely have been enough, and then let Lewis get free at the top of the key for the Yellow Jackets’ 15th 3-pointer of the game.
“It was one of those shots where you don’t think about where you are or who’s in front of you,” said Lewis, who was 5-of-6 from beyond the arc. “You know you’ve just got to get the shot off, and shoot it with confidence.”
Watching the ball swish through the net set off a wild celebration for the Yellow Jackets, who have won three straight, six of eight and appear to be hitting their stride in a bid to reach postseason play.
For Virginia, it was the latest in a growing string of losses, many of them embarrassing. They lost by 22 points at No. 20 Wake Forest last Sunday, and 66-59 at Florida State on Wednesday, ending the Seminoles’ six-game losing streak. The Cavaliers finish with No. 3 Duke and No. 2 Maryland.
“Right now we are having trouble beating good teams,” Gillen said.
And Georgia Tech is an improving team.
Trailing 80-74, B.J. Elder hit a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left for the Yellow Jackets. After Roger Mason Jr. and Travis Watson missed the front ends of 1-and-1s for Virginia, Tony Akins made two free throws – he was 9-for-9 from the line – with 19 seconds left to bring Georgia Tech within 80-79.
Chris Williams inbounded the ball to Watson, who was fouled again, and the 72 percent free throw shooter missed them both with 18 seconds to play.
“(Travis) is a great player, but we don’t want him to handle the ball in the backcourt at the end of a game,” Gillen said. “They didn’t do what we said. They did it their way.”
Akins dribbled the ball to kill most of the time, then got it to Lewis off a screen at the top of the key, and he nailed it from 23 feet.
“Tony maintained his composure,” Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt said. “He waited for somebody to get open and got it to the right one.”
Akins led Georgia Tech with 23 points, while Elder had 18 and Lewis 15. The Yellow Jackets shot 55 percent and tied the record for 3-pointers against Virginia, going 15-of-25. Clemson made 15 3s against Virginia in 1983.
Mason had 19 points for Virginia and Watson added 17 points and 11 rebounds, but neither hit the free throws that could have clinched the victory.