Virginia Thumps Radford To Bounce Back From Opening Loss

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Virginia is 1-1.
Armaan Franklin drained 5 of 8 3-points to help Virginia get a win against Radford. ~ Photo by Kris Wright/TheSabre.com

The Virginia basketball program had lost back-to-back non-conference home games only once in the Tony Bennett era. That came back in 2010 when Seattle and Iowa State handed the Hoos a pair of late December losses. This year’s UVA team made sure to keep that long-running stat in place Friday night.

After falling to Navy in the season opener at the John Paul Jones Arena on Tuesday, the Cavaliers put together a much better effort at home against Radford to win 73-52. The Hoos improved to 147-42 in non-conference games under Bennett and 7-0 against the Highlanders all time.

While it wasn’t a perfect outing, it was a step in the right direction.

“I think the second half against Navy, our effort level defensively was where it needed to be, with still some lapses. And I thought tonight at the start, defensively, our effort level was where it needed to be. Again, we had lapses, there’s things that happen,” Bennett said. “And then we had a little bit better balance of looking inside, letting the offense work a little bit and then getting different kinds of shots. It always helps when some threes go in, but there were good stretches and so I thought it was a better first half. Then we gave up some offensive rebounds in the second half and I know what’s coming in our next game. But they answered the challenge that we put before him, so that was a good step.”

The 3-point shot certainly did help UVA on Friday. After a 4-16 shooting night (25.0%) from long range against Navy, the Cavaliers bounced back with a 9-19 performance (47.4%) from behind the arc against Radford. Five different players hit a triple in the win.

A pair of early 3’s helped Virginia take control of the game in the first half. The Hoos trailed 8-3 early, but uncorked a 20-2 run over a little more than eight minutes to surge to a lead that was never threatened. Reece Beekman made a trey to knot the score at 8-8 and Armaan Franklin gave the hosts the lead for good with a 3-pointer that made it 11-10. Those two shots combined with a flurry of inside activity quickly got the lead to double digits and it stayed there the rest of the way.

Franklin experienced the biggest turnaround between the two games. Against the Midshipmen, he made 1 of 7 3-point attempts in his debut after transferring in from Indiana. Against the Highlanders, he hit 5 of 8 from downtown en route to a game-high 21 points. That’s more in line with his 42.4% 3-point percentage with the Hoosiers last season.

Franklin said he felt more tense in the opener with it being his first game at Virginia, but more relaxed in the second game. He also credited Kihei Clark for sending a late text message after the Navy game and other teammates as well for showing support after the rocky introduction to the Hoo faithful.

“I felt like I took that Navy loss really hard just for me because I felt like I didn’t do my job to the best of my ability,” Franklin said. “When I don’t do that, I feel like I’m letting people down, but my teammates and my coaches, they always keep their confidence in me and I got a lot of texts from guys that night, just telling me that they believe in me, they know what I can do, and just to keep shooting. So for this to happen tonight, I made a couple of shots, it just speaks to everybody’s confidence in me and I just felt like I played well with their confidence.”

Virginia is 1-1.
Virginia’s Kadin Shedrick earned 10 free throws against Radford and made them all. ~ Photo by Kris Wright/TheSabre.com

Clark, Beekman, Carson McCorkle, and Taine Murray joined Franklin with made 3’s. Clark finished with 7 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals, while Beekman added 7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals. McCorkle and Murray got extended minutes, even early in the first half, after barely getting time in the season opener. McCorkle had 5 points and rebound, while Murray chipped in 3 points and a rebound. Igor Milicic also made his debut in the final three minutes.

With a better showing from 3-point range, the Cavaliers capitalized with a balanced attack featuring Jayden Gardner and Kadin Shedrick on the inside. Gardner poured in 18 points for the second straight game and added 7 rebounds as well. Shedrick finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots to contribute in multiple ways. Francisco Caffaro added 2 points and 6 rebounds.

That trio picked up the majority of their production at the free throw line. Shedrick scored all of his points there with a perfect 10-10 night, while Gardner made 8 of 10 freebies himself. Caffaro knocked down 2 of 4 free throws. That propelled UVA to a 24-29 outing at the free throw line where it had a big advantage. Radford made 6 of 7 attempts, but Virginia still had the +17 in its favor there.

Gardner, Shedrick, and Caffaro combined for 30 points and 18 rebounds in the end.

“We tried at times to throw it inside more and [Shedrick] was active and blocked some shots,” Bennett said. “You know, this is new for a lot of our guys, so just the more opportunities he gets. They [Radford] had some physical guys too, but you know, the game was a little different that way. I thought he settled in more, he got to the line 10 times which was nice, and you saw him get four blocks, you saw his length.”

That inside-outside balance put points on the board, but the Hoos did better on the defensive end as well. Radford shot 37.7% for the game and 30.0% from 3-point range thanks to a 6-20 night. Bryan Hart and Shaq Jules led the Highlanders with 12 and 10 points respectively on a combined 7-10 shooting. Josiah Jeffers added 9 points on 4-8 shooting. After those three, the rest of Radford’s roster managed just 9-35 shooting (25.7%).

The Cavaliers did show some issues after halftime when they allowed 31 points. They also had a couple of careless turnovers against a press and allowed 8 offensive rebounds after intermission. They’ll keep chasing consistency because that likely won’t cut it in the first road game of the season on Tuesday night when the Hoos head to No. 15 Houston.

“They’re fierce on the offensive glass. They attack the glass. They play real hard defensively,” Bennett said. “They challenge you in ways that you need to be challenged and grow from and so we’ll have to go in there and as we say, lace them up tight, and be ready to play and play our kind of game and see where we stand.”

Final Stats

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