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Eagles go south

BC taken down a notch by unranked Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- There are only three games left on Boston College's regular-season schedule. There are only three more chances to improve its postseason seeding, not only for the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, where the top four seeds get a first-round bye, but also the NCAA Tournament.

Last night, however, BC squandered an opportunity to improve its postseason posture, absorbing a sobering 72-58 setback against unranked Virginia before a University Hall crowd of 7,959 that serenaded the 13th-ranked Eagles (21-6, 8-5) with chants of ''O-ver-ra-ted! O-ver-ra-ted!" with about 1 1/2 minutes left.

''We beat a very good team," said Virginia first-year coach Dave Leitao, a Northeastern basketball alum from New Bedford, Mass., whose Cavaliers rebounded from a 76-62 loss at Florida State Saturday night to defeat their second ranked opponent of the season (they toppled No. 24 North Carolina Jan. 19).

''Not only are they very good, but they were hot. I thought we beat them at the things they do very well. They are mentally and physically scrappy and I thought we outscrapped them to the loose balls, the 50-50 balls, especially setting the tone early."

BC coach Al Skinner, whose team was led by senior forward Craig Smith (22 points, 9 rebounds), wasn't about to argue the point.

''Right from the very beginning, it was clear that Virginia wanted the game," Skinner said. ''I just think Virginia wanted it much more than we did."

That much was evident when the Eagles, who were held to 35.5 percent shooting (8 for 23 in the second half; 19 for 54 overall), missed their first six field goal attempts. Virginia, meanwhile, came out with both barrels blazing, taking a 5-0 lead on Tunji Soroye's strong putback and Adrian Joseph's 3-pointer from the corner.

But it was the Virginia backcourt duo of J.R. Reynolds and Sean Singletary that wreaked the most havoc, combining for 44 points on 15-for-30 shooting, including 6 of 12 from the 3-point arc.

Reynolds led the way for the Cavaliers with a season-high 28 points on 9-for-15 shooting, including 4 of 7 treys, and seemed to break the game open when he scored all 16 of his first-half points in a 24-6 run that enabled Virginia to open up a whopping 18-point lead, 31-13.

''It was a game where Sean and especially J.R. were terrific," Leitao said. ''They made tough shots, they made open shots and, more importantly, they made plays."

Said BC senior guard Louis Hinnant, ''They were in their building and they fed off the energy. They hit some shots -- they hit a lot of shots. But tonight was an off-shooting night for us. We didn't shoot the ball particularly well, so those two things in combination added up to a loss."

It didn't help matters the Eagles got meager contributions from two of their go-to guys: junior fowards Sean Marshall (5 points) and Jared Dudley (season-low 6 points).

''I'm not making excuses for Jared, but he was a little under the weather tonight," Skinner said.

Freshman guard Tyrese Rice (10 points) provided BC with a glimmer of hope when he helped halve Virginia's 18-point lead to 31-22 with a 3-pointer. Then, after Singletary's transition basket made it 38-24, Rice followed an Akida McClain foul shot by knocking down a trey just before the halftime horn to pull BC within 10, 38-28.

''I thought Tyrese's three was big and gave us momentum," said Smith, who recorded his 1,000th career rebound with 8:31 left, enabling him to join Danya Abrams as the only players in BC history with 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. ''But we came out sluggish in the second half."

Virginia's stout defense held BC to just three field goals in the first 8:14 of the second half.

After Reynolds turned a Rice unforced error into a resounding transition slam for a 50-34 lead, BC twice came back to pull within 12 (50-38 and 55-43). But each time Mamadi Diane, who scored all 9 of his points from the 3-point arc (3 of 4), was there to shut the door with a demoralizing trey.

''Some of their guys stepped up who aren't usually major contributors for them," Hinnant observed. ''They stepped up and hit some big shots."

The road only gets tougher for the Eagles, who travel to North Carolina State for a CBS-televised contest Saturday afternoon that could have huge implications for their seeding in the ACC Tournament.

''They kicked our butt at home," said Smith, referring to a 78-60 loss to the Wolfpack Jan. 10 at Conte Forum. ''So obviously we're in a situation where we've got to put everything into these last couple of games, because, obviously, we're fighting for a bye now and we've got to play like every game is our last."

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