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Bennett sends message to Gardner after defensive lapse

jayden gardner
Virginia forward Jayden Gardner. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

I can’t remember seeing Tony Bennett madder than he was when he called timeout with 4:01 to go after Jayden Gardner had gotten beaten on an alley-oop dunk by Iowa’s Keegan Murray.

Bennett walked angrily toward Gardner, who had carried baggage from a no-call on contact on an alley-oop attempt on the other end moments earlier, had some words, then yanked him from the game for freshman Taine Murray.

Gardner, at that point, had scored a team-high 18 on 8-of-13 shooting, had a team-high eight rebounds, but he wouldn’t see the floor again, as the Cavaliers rallied from what was at that moment a 68-61 deficit to take the lead twice in the final two minutes, before losing, 75-74.

After the game, Bennett had this to say.

“We absorbed some defensive breakdowns even in the second half. We had to just get some guys off the floor and go with what was working, but again, good fight, good comeback. I hope we’ll grow from it,” Bennett said.

Murray, it should be noted, sparked the comeback with a driving layup and a pair of threes, on his way to a career-high 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, 4-of-6 from three.

He had his own issues in the game on the defensive end at times.

The issue with Gardner, a transfer from East Carolina, was in the moment, and involved perceived lack of effort to help on the back line of the Pack-Line.

Funny thing to note here: I just checked Synergy Sports’ analytics, and they have Gardner as the second-best defender in the rotation right now, giving up .603 points per defensive possession.

The best defender, per Synergy: Indiana transfer Armaan Franklin, who allows .569 points per defensive possession.

Gardner wasn’t made available to reporters after the game. Senior point guard Kihei Clark fielded a question on Gardner’s defense.

“It’s kind of like he’s a freshman learning defense,” Clark said. “He knows we’re behind him. We just try to push him through every day and just try to coach them up, show him where he’s messing up and what he can do better, and when he does a good job, we pat him on the back. Just trying to learn to do it every single possession, every time down. I think that’s what we’re building toward, so I mean, he’s learning, but I think he can really he can really be a good defensive player for us.”

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press