Virginia 69, Maryland 65

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Being atop the Atlantic Coast Conference in early February isn't quite the same as being there in March. So Virginia coach Dave Leitao isn't bragging about his basketball team -- yet.

J.R. Reynolds scored 23 points, and the surprising Cavaliers gained sole possession of first place in the ACC with their seventh straight victory, 69-65 over Maryland on Tuesday night.

Adrian Joseph had 13 points for the Cavaliers, who moved a half-game ahead of idle Boston College. Picked to finish eighth in the ACC preseason poll, Virginia has won seven consecutive league games -- its longest streak since an 11-game run during the 1981-82 season.

"Game by game, it's rewarding. Special is a word reserved for what happens at the end of the rainbow, and we won't attach that to our season yet," Leitao said.

The Cavaliers (16-6, 8-2) held on after blowing most of a 15-point lead in the second half. Reynolds made two free throws for a 68-65 lead with 11.4 seconds left, and Mike Jones missed a jumper for Maryland before Tunji Soroye clinched it with two foul shots.

"I was pressured a little bit," Soroye said, "but at the same time I was calm."

And now, Virginia -- yes, Virginia -- stands atop the standings ahead of such powerhouses as Duke and North Carolina.

"Right now that just makes you the hunted more than if you were in the middle of the pack or in last place," Leitao said.

Jones led the Terrapins (17-7, 3-6) with 18 points and Greivis Vasquez had 13, all in the first half. Maryland, which was 13-1 at home, outplayed Virginia down the stretch.

But by then it was too late.

"We can't wait until the end to do that. We have to play like that the entire game," guard D.J. Strawberry said. "We battled back, it just wasn't enough."

Up by 10 at halftime, the Cavaliers used a 9-4 spurt early in the second half to make it 56-41 with 13:22 to go. Sean Singletary had two baskets in the surge and Joseph added a 3-pointer.

It was 59-44 before Maryland scored nine straight points. Reynolds stemmed the run with a layup, but Jones made two free throws and added a dunk off a steal to make it 61-57 with 5:42 left.

Minutes later, Strawberry scored off an alley-OOP pass from Eric Hayes to bring the Terrapins to 63-60. Joseph then missed a 3-pointer, but Soroye got the rebound and was fouled trying to shoot. His two free throws made it 65-60.

A 3-pointer by Hayes made it a 2-point game with 54 seconds remaining, and Virginia's Mamadi Diane made one of two free throws with 23.2 seconds left to put Virginia up by three.

"I don't know what happened to make us come out like this. This is probably one of the biggest games of the year," Strawberry said. "We couldn't finish."

Maryland coach Gary Williams was also disappointed with his team's play at the outset.

"The first half, they played harder than we did. We played hard the last 10 minutes," he said. "I don't know what the problem is."

Reynolds and Vasquez both scored 13 points in the first half, and Virginia led 41-31 at the break by holding Maryland to 36 percent shooting.

Three-point plays by Singletary, Reynolds and Diane, along with a 3-pointer by Reynolds, provided the Cavaliers with an early 16-8 lead. Maryland started 3-for-11 from the floor with four turnovers.

After Joseph sank a 3-pointer and baseline jumper to make it 32-18, the Terrapins responded with their first run of the game -- a 6-0 burst that Reynolds ended with a 3-pointer from the right corner.