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Francisco Caffaro sparks rally: His Virginia teammates need to channel his energy

Francisco Caffaro
Francisco Caffaro/Virginia Athletics

Francisco Caffaro subbed in at the 11:27 mark of the second half, Virginia down 42-31, coach Tony Bennett desperate for a spark.

No offense to Papi, as he is known to his teammates and coaches, but, it isn’t mean to use the word desperate here.

Big fella had four DNPs in his last six, and had played a total of six minutes – six minutes – since logging a modest nine in the Dec. 22 loss to South Carolina.

Naturally, the 7’1” redshirt freshman did provide the spark that Bennett was looking for.

The first two offensive sets Caffaro was in for had him and point guard Kihei Clark running pick-and-roll action, one resulting in a Caffaro layup, the other a Clark layup.

On the other end, Caffaro played pick-and-roll defense like he was Jack Salt back for a sixth season, and in the process got so under the skin of N.C. State big man D.J. Funderburk that Funderburk, after a double-tech assessed when the two locked up at the 7:13 mark left him saddled with a fourth foul, quickly picked up his fifth 25 seconds later on a reach-in on Caffaro 25 feet from the hoop.

Ol’ Papi was at the helm of a 15-0 run over a 10:13 stretch that saw an 11-point State lead turn into a 46-42 Virginia working margin heading into the final minutes.

We all know how it turned out: State won, 53-51.

Sucks, big time.

But Caffaro, with defense, screens and finishes at the rim, and 2-of-3 shooting at the line, got the Cavaliers back in the game, and finished with a plus-minus of plus-8 in 10 minutes.

There’s a positive to take from this one.

“I try to play with energy and play hard,” Caffaro said afterward. “I’ve been waiting for a few games. I’m always going to be ready to just bring what I can, bring physicality and just bring energy.”

He subbed in at the 11:27 mark for Jay Huff, who you wish could figure out a way to channel Caffaro’s physicality and energy, but just can’t, just can’t.

Huff, who finished with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting and four rebounds in 21 minutes, had a team-worst plus-minus of minus-11.

It probably says something that he didn’t check back in until the 58-second mark.

And that Braxton Key, who also subbed out at the 11:27 mark, didn’t check back in until there were 26 seconds left.

“Papi came in, and I think he did a really good job on ball screen defense, bouncing guys out, got some tough finishes, made his free throws,” Bennett said.

“I thought Papi brought physicality and did a good job impacting the high ball screen, then everybody reset and everybody buckled down defensively and got enough stops to get the lead.”

Now, you hope it rubs off on the older guys, that want-to that Caffaro has, and some of the other guys need to develop.

Story by Chris Graham

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