CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (December 17, 2002) - With a four-point lead at halftime and the Virginia Cavaliers struggling to find a rhythm after a 13-day break from play, East Tennessee State seemed to have their Atlantic Coast Conference opponent right where they wanted them.
Then Derrick Byars showed up.
Byars, a freshman swingman, scored all but two of his 16 points in the second half as Virginia held off a major threat in an 84-76 win Tuesday over East Tennessee State.
Virginia trailed 50-49 with 13:15 left in the game before Byars hit three straight 3-pointers and then added two more lay-ups to help lift the Cavaliers to a 69-56 advantage with 5:33 left to play.
The Buccaneers (3-4), however, managed to reduce that lead to 80-76 in the final minute on a 3-point play by Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.). The Cavaliers had to make 10 of their final 12 free throws to secure the win.
Tiras Wade (Tampa, Fla.) led the Buccaneers, picked in the preseason to win the Southern Conference's North Division, with 23 points, while Zakee Wadood (Lonoke, Ark.) added 18 and Smith had 17.
East Tennessee State, which led by nine twice in the opening half, held a 39-35 advantage at the half. The Buccaneers connected on five of their 10 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes and took advantage of 13 Virginia turnovers, which they converted into 21 points compared to eight for Virginia.
Jermaine Harper entered the game with 11:08 remaining in the first half and finished with seven points in 23 minutes. It marked Harper's return to the court after being suspended since Nov. 12 for violating unspecified team rules.
The game was Virginia's first at University Hall in 25 days. The Cavaliers defeated Long Island here on Nov. 22 and then played three games at the Maui Invitational and then at Michigan State before having a 13-day break for exams.