CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – This was not how the season was supposed to begin for the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats.
Not after having host Virginia on the ropes for the first 27 minutes of Sunday’s game, a contest the Cavaliers rallied to win 93-90.
“We played a perfect game in the first half, hit open shots and rebounded well and played some defense,” said UA senior Ivan Radenovic, who had 24 points. “It got away in the second half. Then it was over.”
Arizona squandered a 49-36 halftime lead before 15,219-orange clad fans in the first game played at John Paul Jones Arena.
UA had a chance to tie it at the buzzer, but sophomore reserve guard J.P. Prince missed a 3-pointer from the right wing. He replaced Mustafa Shakur, who had just fouled out.
Arizona coach Lute Olson said his team “got what we wanted; it just didn’t go in.”
“J.P. had been shooting the ball real well. He got a pretty good look at it, but it’s tough when you’ve been sitting on the bench all game. He’s won a lot of games in high school. When it’s a big shot in practice, he usually hits it.”
It came down to a 3 because Arizona couldn’t hold its lead or keep its poise in the second half. The Cavs outscored UA 57-41 in the final 20 minutes.
UA’s Marcus Williams fouled out with 18 points with 2:56 left.
“There were just a lot of little things I thought I could do better,” said Williams, who added eight rebounds. “I put a lot on my shoulders because I think they look to me for things.”
With UA up 64-54 and 13:55 left, Virginia went on a 14-4 run and tied it at 68 with 11:04 left on two Sean Singletary free throws. That gave the Cavaliers the belief they could win, and Singletary ended with 24 points.