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Another long drought dooms offensively-challenged Virginia

john paul jones arena
Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Virginia cut a 10-point second-half deficit to two, then went more than 11 minutes without a field goal. It feels like I’ve written this story before, but actually, no, new one here, with Clemson winning in JPJ for the first time since 2008, 67-50.

The game went pretty much according to script, except for the surprise first-half run by Reece Beekman, a 33.8 percent shooter coming in, who was a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor, 2-of-2 from three, but even with his career-high 14 points in the opening 20, UVA was still down eight, 35-27, at the break.

After a Clemson bucket pushed the margin to 10, Virginia went on an 8-0 run, buoyed by threes from Kihei Clark and Armaan Franklin, to get to 37-35 with 17:34 left.

The next ‘Hoos basket would come on a Franklin 15-footer with 6:31 to go, but all that could do was get the margin to 56-42.

Virginia was 2-of-18 from the floor in the final 17:34, the other make a three from Beekman with 49 seconds left.

Beekman finished with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, 3-of-5 from three – he had come into the game with three makes all season, shooting 15.8 percent from deep.

What a shame to waste an effort like that from him.

Franklin chipped in 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting, 1-of-7 from three. On the season, Franklin, a 42.4 percent shooter from behind the arc last season at Indiana – you’re getting tired of me reminding you of that nugget – is just on this side of the Mendoza Line, at 20.3 percent.

Jayden Gardner had nine points and six boards, and was just 2-of-9 from the floor. He looked every bit the too-small-to-play-power-forward-at-this-level guy that you feared coming into the season. Bennett started using him down the stretch in five-high looks on the three-point line, because nothing he was doing in the paint was working, and he did hit a three in four attempts.

The two centers – Kadin Shedrick and Francisco Caffaro – combined for two points, a pair of Shedrick free throws, 0-of-3 shooting from the floor, two rebounds, one assist, five turnovers and three fouls in 29 minutes.

Shedrick did have six blocked shots, but Clemson still dominated the paint, outscoring the ‘Hoos 22-12 around the basket, so even that nice stat for Shed has a pyrrhic ring to it.

Virginia had 14 turnovers on its 60 possessions, and Clemson finished with a 24-6 advantage in points off turnovers.

The Virginia bench didn’t score a single point in this one in 33 minutes of floor time. The five bench guys – Caffaro, Taine Murray, Igor Milicic Jr., Carson McCorkle and Malachi Poindexter – only shot the ball a total of four times.

Kihei Clark, in 38 minutes, put up just three shots, all threes, making one, adding three free throws, as he scored six, and had three assists and three turnovers.

Virginia shot 15-of-41 from the floor (36.6 percent) and was 6-of-22 from three.

This team came into the game shooting 32.1 percent from three on the season, and for the second time in three games, more than half of its shot attempts from the floor were threes.

Something seems wrong with the game planning here. That much is obvious.

The loss drops Virginia to a 7-5 mark on the season, with the next three games on the road – at Syracuse, at Clemson, at UNC.

This season has a Dave Leitao era feel to it.

Story by Chris Graham

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