Virginia Returns To Action, Drops Baylor In Las Vegas Main Event

Virginia Cavaliers Armaan Franklin
Armaan Franklin poured in 26 points for Virginia. ~ Photo By Kris Wright/

Sometimes a gambler can get on a hot streak at a blackjack table and seemingly hit every card needed to win hands. The Virginia basketball team found similar momentum in Las Vegas on Friday night.

After trailing by three at intermission, the Hoos unleashed a 30-5 run to open the second half behind a sizzling shooting run from behind the arc and held off a rally from No. 5 Baylor late to win 86-79 in the Continental Tire Main Event. No. 16 UVA improved to 42-1 in the Tony Bennett era when scoring at least 80 points, which includes each of the last two games this season.

“Guys got hot,” Bennett said in a Virginia news release. “Everybody started shooting it. But we were getting good looks. They were rhythm shots. We just got freed up. They play such an aggressive kind of defense, where they’re switching, and we just got enough easy looks, and then guys obviously got the shots and made a couple tough ones. It was just one of those games where it went right.”

It went really right in the second half. The Cavaliers made 13 of 20 shots overall (65.0%), 8 of 12 3-pointers (66.7%), and 22 of 26 free throws (84.6%) after intermission. That led to a 56-point half that topped nine full-game totals from last season.

The 3-point part of that equation fueled the majority of the early second half surge. Virginia made 8 of its first 10 attempts from downtown to start the half, which accounted for 24 of the 30 points in the 30-5 outburst. Armaan Franklin and Kihei Clark got it going initially with triples on back-to-back possessions in the first 2:01 of the half. Eventually, Reece Beekman, Ben Vander Plas, and Ryan Dunn all got in on the act with 3’s of their own during the run.

In the end, Franklin knocked down a trio of 3-pointers and Beekman added two more to account for half of the scoring during that big surge. Franklin also made 4 free throws and a putback bucket during that stretch as he scored 15 points during the first 10 minutes after intermission. He finished with a career-high 26 points on 7-12 overall shooting (58.3%) that included 3-6 shooting (50.0%) from behind the arc. He also made 9 of 10 free throws plus added 4 rebounds and 3 steals to his line. Franklin has opened this season 9-18 from 3-point range. It took six games last season to get to that many long-range makes.

“It just felt really good,” Franklin said in a Virginia news release. “Honestly, I’m just going out there and just playing. Trying to play smart, trying to play hard, do whatever I have to do for the team. Make a shot, miss a shot, just staying confident.”

Franklin got plenty of help. Beekman secured a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists. Kadin Shedrick poured in 17 points on a perfect 6-6 shooting night with 5-7 shooting at the free throw line. He also had 3 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, and 2 steals. Vander Plas posted 14 points on 4-5 shooting, while Clark chipped in 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Jayden Gardner also had 7 points to go with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal.

Overall, UVA dished out 20 assists on 25 made baskets. That extended an early season trend. The Hoos have logged 59 assists on 75 made baskets over the first three games.

“Obviously that second half, we just started shooting the ball so well and we saw something that we thought we could maybe get some advantages on and once we did that, the game opened up,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “We needed all of that because I was disappointed in how we couldn’t contain them at the end. It was almost like letting them score and just a couple of careless mistakes where the soundness comes in, but no question a good win. I told our guys be as free as you can, play as hard as you can, and no regrets in this one.”

Indeed, after Virginia scored 30 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, Baylor responded with 41 points in the final 10:04 to reel in what had been a 22-point deficit at 60-38. Behind a fullcourt press that rattled UVA a little bit on some possessions and the playmaking of LJ Cryer, Keyonte George, and Adam Flagler, the Bears got as close as 6 points at 79-73 with 1:04 to go. The Cavaliers took care of business at the free throw line to make sure the rally came up short, though.

Still, Baylor ended up with a similar-looking box score. The Bears made 28 of 48 shots overall (48.3%), 11 of 26 treys (42.3%), and 12 of 14 free throws (85.7%). George led the way with 20 points and 2 assists, while Cryer had 19 points and 4 assists. Flagler registered 15 points with 7 assists and 2 steals. Caleb Lohner was also in double figures with 11 points.

“I thought besides that 10-minute stretch there, we did a lot of good things,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “For 10 minutes, you’ve really got to credit Virginia. … I knew coming in this was going to be a really hard game. … We’re a better team from it. So much respect for their program. This game will help us moving forward.”

Baylor showed some of that respect for Virginia both before and after the game. The Bears’ players wrote notes to the UVA players prior to the event in Vegas. After Friday night’s game, the two teams circled arm in arm around the center of the court as well. Those gestures followed the tragic shooting deaths in Charlottesville earlier in the week. On Sunday night, Virginia football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry were shot and killed while two other students, fellow football player Mike Hollins and Marlee Morgan, were wounded and hospitalized.

This game marked the men’s basketball team’s first since the shooting occurred. The Hoos wore special warm-ups and uniform patches honoring the memory of Chandler, Davis, and Perry.

“We just talked about it after in the locker room,” Bennett said. “We talked about trying to play as free as we can because of the perspective that we’ve seen. We know the pain and the grief that so many are going through. The football program, those young men and the coaching staff, and then on another level the families. We’re kind of the ripple effect – a lot of our guys were close to those young men – and even the sadness that we feel. So we just talked about after, you played hard, you played free, whether you’d won or lost, it was OK but you honored the right things. Situations like that, they really do put things in perspective. I said before … I said I want that coaching staff and those players to know how much we love them and are with them. The one thing I know about Devin, D’Sean, and Lavel, those were men who had a hope in things other than this world. They were strong men of faith. I believe they’re rejoicing right now and the pain is for the families that are left behind and all those that they touched, but it’s not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s not. When it comes to your community, it’s sad and this has gone on all over, but this isn’t all there is, this isn’t the end. I believe that with all my heart. So something horrible, we just pray some how, some way some things can come of it that are positive and good. I know there’s a lot of crushed spirits and broken-hearted people and we’re praying for those people. But to have that performance, it’s just a game, but if it brought some momentary joy to any of those guys, thank goodness for that.”

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5 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. With the weight and hopes of all of UVA, all of Charlottesville, and of every UVA alumnus and fan everywhere on their shoulders, the team delivered in big way. They were a light in the darkness and played so well in honoring their fallen fellow students. Go Hoos! 1.15.41!

  2. Thanks for playing hard, playing the right way and representing us so well. So proud to be a hoo and have CTB and these players represent our university so well. Also, major props to the Baylor players and coach Scott Drew. Very classy what they did to support us.

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