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Feed me: Sugar, caffeine fuel home crowd, energizing Virginia win

francisco caffaro
Francisco Caffaro. Photo by Dan Grogan.

There was something different about the energy in the John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday. Tony Bennett thinks he knows what the deal was.

“I think when you’re hydrated, and you’re nourished, you can go a little harder and yell a little more. I think that the concession stands opening allowed the sugar rush, the caffeine burst, all that stuff, the crowd was great tonight. It was good to see that,” Bennett said, referencing the lifting of the two-week ban on food and drinks at events on Grounds.

There were more people on hand for this one – 14,089, up more than 1,000 from the food- and drink-less home wins over Louisville and Boston College – and they were loud.

It helped that the home team, efforting to build its first winning streak since getting back-to-back road wins at Syracuse and Clemson on Jan. 1 and Jan. 4, gave the hydrated and nourished fans plenty to cheer about.

After falling behind early, Virginia went on a 14-4 run midway through the first half to take control, got a buzzer-beating three from Armaan Franklin to go into the break up nine, then opened up a double-digit lead three minutes into the second half, and kept it the rest of the way.

Franklin, who finished with a season-high 22 points, said it was “a mix of things” that was the difference.

“Getting to the rim to start, and then getting to the mid-range pull up, which always helps you. It’s also great when your threes are falling as well. Mixing it up and not being predictable helped in the first half for me,” said Franklin, who had 15 in the first half, as UVA opened up a 35-26 lead at the half.

Virginia shot 62.5 percent in the first half, and 60 percent for the game, scoring 71 points on 58 possessions – 1.224 points per possession.

Maybe more impressive was what Virginia was able to do on the defensive end. Miami leads the ACC in offensive efficiency in conference play, scoring 1.129 points per possession, and the ‘Canes had been averaging 77.4 points per game and shooting 40.4 percent from three-point range in ACC play coming in.

Miami shot 54 percent from the field, but was just 4-of-18 (23.4 percent) from three, and committed 13 turnovers on its 57 possessions.

Bottom line: UM scored 1.018 points per possession, and only got over the point-per-possession mark with an 8-0 run in the final 1:08 in garbage time.

“Tonight, we played how we know we can play,” Franklin said.

“I feel like today was a good day for us as a team,” said point guard Reece Beekman, who had nine points and 10 assists in the win. “We were all on the same page, and we were all really clicking. I feel like when we are all together as one team, we are hard to beat, and we showed that today.”

All that, and the burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, fries and sodas were selling like hot cakes.

It was a good day all around.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press

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