CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The No. 24 Virginia Cavaliers will need to find other scoring options besides J.R. Reynolds and Sean Singletary to make a deep run in the postseason.
On Saturday, Tunji Soroye did his part, scoring off a putback with 33.8 seconds to play that helped the Cavaliers rally to beat surging Georgia Tech, 75-69.
Reynolds had 25 points, 18 in the second half, and Singletary had 24, but key three-point plays by Soroye and Jason Cain in the last 6:36 kept the comeback going. Cain's putback with 2:25 to play tied it, and Soroye's in the final minute won it.
"It's tremendous," Reynolds said of seeing Soroye rewarded for his solid play in four consecutive starts with a right place, right time experience to win a game.
When the ball came to him, Soroye was wide open, but didn't know it.
He did know, though, that he was overdue to make something happen, having grabbed just two rebounds and scored only three points in a game right before the big play.
Coach Dave Leitao also let all three of the supporting cast to Reynolds and Singletary know the Cavaliers needed them to do something big during a second half timeout, poking them each in the chest and asking what they had done to help the team win so far.
"My challenge was not just to stand around and watch them be good," Leitao said.
Seeing Soroye make the big play, and seeing Cain score all seven of his points in the last 6:36, was just the kind of response the second-year coach was looking for.
"We have two very, very special players who at any point in time can make plays," a seemingly stunned Leitao said. "If you surround them with a team that plays defense, and plays tough and rebounds, you have a chance to win each and every night."
The Cavaliers (19-8, 10-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) kept pace with Virginia Tech in second place in the conference pending leader North Carolina's game at Maryland on Sunday. The Cavaliers, who play the Hokies at John Paul Jones Arena on Thursday night, also clinched a critical bye in the first round of the 12-team ACC tournament.
Thaddeus Young scored 15 points, Ra'sean Dudley added 14 and Javaris Crittendon had 12 for the Yellow Jackets (18-10, 6-8), who have won five of their last seven games.
This was one they let get away, coach Paul Hewitt said.
"I'm not sure we could fight any harder than we did for about 37 or 38 minutes," he said. "We just didn't finish the game. ... Give them credit. They looked dead in the water with 3 minutes to go, and they summoned a lot of courage and came back."
The Cavaliers led only briefly in the second half, at 50-49, but the Yellow Jackets' never flinched. Young and Crittendon scored seven points in a 9-2 run that gave Georgia Tech a 58-52 edge. They combined for 14 straight with Young hitting two 3-pointers and a jumper and Crittendon making six straight free throws for a 69-62 lead.
Only 3:41 remained, but after Singletary hit a pair of free throws and Reynolds converted a three-point play, Cain scored off an offensive rebound for his second basket of the game to tie it at 69 with 2:25 left, setting up the final sequences.
Virginia scored the last 13 points of the game.
"Defensively I think we let up a little bit," the Yellow Jackets Anthony Morrow said. "We stopped doing the little things and got a little careless at the end."
Virginia converted all five of its three-point play chances in the second half.
The Cavs trailed 45-39 with 16 minutes left before Reynolds hit a jumper and 3-pointer, then followed a dunk by Jeremis Smith with a three-point play, pulling the Cavaliers even at 47. After Dickey scored inside for Georgia Tech, Singletary also was fouled while scoring on a drive, and his free throw gave the Cavs a 50-49 lead.
Then the Yellow Jackets grabbed control again, but not for long enough, failing to become the first ACC team to beat the Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena this year. Virginia, 15-1 at home, closes its home schedule against the Hokies on Thursday night.