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Inside the Numbers: Jayden Gardner’s 26-point night saves Virginia

jayden gardner layup
Jayden Gardner drives to the hoop for two of his 26 points. Photo by Dan Grogan.

Remember when Jayden Gardner looked like he couldn’t see over the opposing four’s armpits? Seems like so long ago.

Gardner had 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting to key Virginia to a 63-53 win over a feisty Georgia Tech squad on Saturday at JPJ.

It was Gardner’s fifth 20+-point game of the season, and second in his past five games – a stretch that has seen the 6’6” senior average 18.8 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting.

He’s also averaging 7.4 rebounds per game over the past five – and had seven, along with three blocks, a season-high.

On a night when his teammates had trouble hitting the broadside of a barn – the other ‘Hoos were a cumulative 9-of-30 from the floor, and Kihei Clark was 4-of-8 of that – it was huge that Gardner was hitting on all cylinders.

“I’m just trying to do the little things on and off the court to help this team win. That’s all there is to it,” Gardner said.

Clark comes up big late, again

kihei clark layup
Kihei Clark had 15 points in the Virginia win. Photo by Dan Grogan.

Clark had largely been silent through the game’s first 32 minutes, with just five points and two assists.

Georgia Tech had cut a 17-point first-half lead to four when Clark buried a three from the top of the key with 7:59 to go, and it was at five when a Clark three at the 2:34 mark pushed the margin to 57-49.

Clark then helped close things out going 4-of-4 at the line in the final 47 seconds.

His final statline: 15 points, 4-of-8 shooting, 3-of-7 from three, 4-of-4 at the line, two assists, two steals in 36 minutes.

“I was taking the shots that came to me,” Clark said. “The shots felt good. I was trying to take what the defense was giving us. Obviously, I knew we could use a big basket too. Reece [Beekman] did a good job of driving on them, and he kicked it out. It was a good play.”

“He’s been in a lot of these and has that experience, and we talk about it often, that most times in these kinds of games, that the game comes down to making plays,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.

Credit to Georgia Tech

Virginia hit eight of its first 12 shots from the field as it built a 22-6 lead midway through the first half.

Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner started the game in a 2-3 zone, but was switching between that and man and a 1-3-1 matchup zone.

He would drop the man and 2-3 and go solely with the matchup zone the rest of the way, and it worked.

Virginia went 11-of-39 (28.2 percent) from the field in the final 28:29 of game time.

UVA led by as many as 17 in the latter stages of the first half. Georgia Tech would get the margin down to two with 5:44 to go before Virginia took control down the stretch.

“Their zone is kind of weird, and tough to play against,” Clark said. “They really extend their zone, and they play the passing lanes. They make it tough, rotate well, and talk well on defense, so it’s a tough zone. But we just kept trying to move the ball and punch the gas when we could. We’d try to get it to Jayden down low on the short corners as much as possible. It’s just a tough zone. They’re really active in it, and they use their hands well.”

Virginia comes up big on D

Georgia Tech shot 45.7 percent (21-of-46) for the game, but 15 turnovers on 59 possessions (25.4 percent), only getting four makes from three (4-of-12, 33.3 percent) and only getting 10 free-throw attempts (7-of-10, 70 percent) contributed to the Yellow Jackets scoring just .898 points per possession.

That was the lowest PPP surrendered by the Cavaliers in ACC play this season.

In the four-game winning streak, Virginia is allowing opponents .967 points per possession.

Just two weeks ago, Virginia ranked 13th in the ACC in conference games in defensive efficiency (1.088 PPP).

The recent stretch of good D has the ‘Hoos ranked eighth.

“Yeah, it takes time with game reps, and learning the pack-system and the continuities there,” Gardner said.

Important contribution from the walk-on

Malachi Poindexter got another 11 minutes off the bench with Reece Beekman (four points, 0-of-2 from the field, both misses threes, three rebounds, three assists, one turnover, season-low 23 minutes) again in foul trouble.

The sophomore walk-on, who played locally at St. Anne’s-Belfield and Louisa County High School, didn’t score, missed his only shot from the floor, had one rebound, one assist and one foul.

The number that stands out: his +8 plus/minus.

“Reece, again, to start the second half picked up [a foul] and he needs to be sounder with that kind of stuff. But Malachi gave us a good lift and was really active defensively and worked hard,” Bennett said.

Quick hits

  • Kadin Shedrick (two points, three rebounds, three blocks in 18 minutes) missed his only field-goal attempt. He had made his previous 11 from the field. The school record: 12, by Isaiah Wilkins, now an assistant on Bennett’s staff, in 2017, and Bobby Stokes, now a doctor in Charlottesville, way back in 1978.
  • Armaan Franklin had an off-night – five points on 2-of-10 shooting, 0-of-5 from three, 1-of-2 at the line, with an assist and three turnovers in 35 minutes. Since connecting on 4-of-7 from three in the 77-63 loss at NC State on Jan. 22, Franklin is 8-of-34 (23.5 percent) from long-range. As ghastly as that is, it’s actually not that much different from his season numbers. Franklin, a 42.4 percent shooter from three a year ago at Indiana, is shooting 25.6 percent from behind the arc this season.
  • Michael Devoe, Georgia Tech’s leading scorer this season, had scored a total of five points on 2-of-18 shooting in the Yellow Jackets’ two losses to Virginia a year ago. He went off on Saturday, scoring 17, on 6-of-15 shooting, 3-of-8 from three, 2-of-3 at the line, with four assists in 37 minutes.
  • Tech’s second-leading scorer, Jordan Usher, averaging 15.0 points per game coming in, had a relatively quiet 11 on 3-of-8 shooting, 1-of-3 from three, 4-of-5 at the line, along with five rebounds and five assists in 36 minutes.

Story by Chris Graham


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