news 12 virginia closes out calendar year with impressive acc road win
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#12 Virginia closes out calendar year with impressive ACC road win

kihei clark
Photo: UVA Athletics

A hearty welcome back to the Virginia basketball team that tore through November, and finished out the calendar year with an impressive 74-56 win at Georgia Tech on New Year’s Eve.

Guys, we’d missed you.

Virginia (10-2, 2-1 ACC) had slogged through December, going 3-2 ahead of Saturday’s contest, with tighter than they should have been five-point wins over Florida State and JMU, and frustrating losses to two ranked opponents, Houston and Miami.

This one on Saturday broke open with a 25-0 run over an 8:36 stretch spanning halftime.

It was just 27-25 when the run started with a three by Armaan Franklin at the 1:49 mark of the first half. Two more threes, from Kihei Clark and Isaac McKneely, iMac’s coming with two seconds to go, sent the Cavaliers into the break with an 11-point lead.

UVA then opened the second half with a 16-0 run, getting an and-one from Kadin Shedrick, a strip-steal and layup from Clark, a three by Reece Beekman, then a flurry from Jayden Gardner – a couple of mid-range jumpers and an angry fast-break dunk, answering the question that I’ve had for a while, Can Jayden Gardner actually dunk a basketball, rather emphatically.

It was effectively over from there, the last 15 minutes and change reduced to being extended garbage time.

Virginia came in a slight favorite – anywhere from four to seven points, per the analytics sites, with win probabilities ranging from 68 percent to 76 percent.

With that context, yep, impressive win.

Analysis

The UVA D forced 23 Georgia Tech turnovers, and the Yellow Jackets only got to 56 points because they heated up from the floor after getting down 25 on the scoreboard – hitting eight of their final 14 shots in the final 8:31 of game clock.

Emblematic of that, Miles Kelly, Tech’s leading scorer coming in, had a game-high 20, but nine of those came on three threes in the final 5:54, which, a lot of good that does you, hitting a barrage of threes when the game’s already over, but it looks good in the scorebook.

Kelly had been 3-of-9 from the field before that late, useless flurry.

Virginia had four guys in double-digits, and six guys scored at least eight points.

Clark, who for some reason still has loud doubters among the fan base, now five years in, had 15 points (6-of-9 FG, 2-of-3 3FG), eight assists and three steals.

Cue the he’s still too short chorus of doofuses.

Gardner had 14 points (7-of-12 FG). Franklin and Shedrick each had 11 – Franklin on 3-of-12 shooting, 3-of-9 from three, and oddly, it felt just watching the game that he had been more efficient than that.

Shedrick’s 11 came on 3-of-4 shooting, and he only got 17 minutes because of foul trouble, which, that’s not news.

McKneely had a nice statistical game – nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from three in 24 minutes. He did get benched for a stretch in the first half after turning down an open shot, leading to a turnover and a Georgia Tech runout.

ACC Network analyst Dan Bonner has iMac pegged right: if you’re a three-point shooter, you need to get yourself in a position to shoot when Clark or Beekman find you open on the three-point line.

That doesn’t mean you have to shoot it, but you do have to be ready, and iMac isn’t always ready.

Beekman looked much closer to 100 percent health-wise – he’s been nursing ankle and hamstring injuries since the win at Michigan last month – and had eight points (3-of-6 FG, 2-of-3 3FG) and four assists in 27 minutes, with a team-best plus/minus of +23.

Minutiae

  • The tempo played at Virginia’s preferred pace: 61 possessions.
  • UVA was 10-of-22 from three, the first time in a while (notably, the 86-79 win over Baylor, in which Virginia was 11-of-26 from three) that the three-ball was a weapon for the ‘Hoos.
  • UVA recorded 12 assists on 13 made field goals in the first half
  • UVA had a season-high 14 steals, most since 16 vs. NC State (2/24/08)
  • With the win, Bennett (326-119, 14 seasons) tied Terry Holland (326-173, 16 seasons) for first on the all-time wins list at UVA.

Chris Graham

In addition to being the editor of Augusta Free Press, I've written seven books, including Poverty of Imagination and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, both published in 2019, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For my commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to my YouTube page, youtube.com/chrisgrahamAFP. Want to reach me? Try [email protected].