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March 9, 2006

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP)J.R. Reynolds scored a game-high 23 points to help Virginia hold off Virginia Tech 60-56 in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on Thursday night.

Laurynas Mikalauskas added 11 points and 12 rebounds in his first start in more than two months for the seventh-seeded Cavaliers (15-13), who advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals to face second-seeded North Carolina. The win ended a three-game losing streak for Virginia, which took both meetings with the Hokies this season.

Zabian Dowdell scored 15 points to lead the 10th-seeded Hokies (14-16), who remained winless in two seasons in the ACC tournament.

This was hardly a steady performance by the Cavaliers, who led by 10 early in the second half before falling behind by four with about 6 minutes left. Virginia hit just three field goals in the last 14 1/2 minutes and committed 17 turnovers that led to 20 points for the Hokies, while also shooting 42 percent and missing 12 of 29 free throws.

Virginia also got a shaky day from Sean Singletary, who this week became Virginia’s first All-ACC first-team performer in 14 years. The sophomore scored just eight points on 2-for-10 shooting, while the Cavs bench managed just two points.

But in the end, the Cavaliers found a way to win.

With Virginia Tech leading by one, T.J. Bannister penetrated and found Mikalauskas for a score inside and a 57-56 lead with 1:54 to play. Then, after a miss by Reynolds two possessions later, Mikalauskas grabbed the rebound and got fouled, hitting a free throw to push the margin to 58-56.

Virginia Tech had its chances, but couldn’t come up with the tying basket. Dowdell missed a shot that would have tied it after Mikalauskas’ free throw, and A.D. Vassallo missed an open 3-pointer after a free throw by Adrian Joseph.

Reynolds effectively sealed it with a free throw with 8.8 seconds left, giving Virginia at least one win in the ACC tournament for the third straight year.

Mikalauskas came in averaging 5.8 points and hadn’t started since the Western Kentucky game on Jan. 2.

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