news third ranked virginia without beekman wins slugfest with upset minded jmu 55 50
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Third-ranked Virginia, without Beekman, wins slugfest with upset-minded JMU, 55-50

uva basketball
Photo: UVA Athletics

A game JMU squad was able to hang around with third-ranked Virginia despite shooting just 27.3 percent, taking the ‘Hoos into the final seconds in a 55-50 UVA win.

Virginia (8-0) limped into the exam break, literally, in the case of lead guard Reece Beekman, who played just four minutes after injuring a hamstring on a fast-break bucket.

With Beekman on the sidelines, an ice pack on his hammy, UVA looked tentative, and JMU (7-3), the favorite in the mid-major Sun Belt Conference, was everything but.

Virginia led by as many as 11 in the first half, but the Dukes were able to cut the deficit to seven at the break, and the second half was a rock fight.

JMU was able to get to the line early and often in the final 20 minutes, connecting on 13-of-18 at the stripe, which is how you mask shooting 27.3 percent.

Virginia, on its side, had an uncharacteristically bad night at the line – to the tune of a 12-of-24 stat line.

Kihei Clark, an 81.5 percent foul shooter coming in, hit five of his first six, then missed five in a row in the second half, before finally making the back end of a two-shot foul with eight seconds left.

The string of misses – Virginia was 10-of-19 at the line in the second half – and seven second-half turnovers is what kept this one close down the stretch.

JMU fought back to tie the game at 42 on a three-pointer by Takal Molson at the 7:51 mark.

Virginia would get the lead back out to six on three different occasions, the last time on an Isaac McKneely free throw with 2:02 to go.

Molson, who had a game-high 20 points, got the margin down to four with a layup at the 1:51 mark and then, after a Ben Vander Plas miss, another Molson layup got it to two with one minute left.

UVA freshman Ryan Dunn converted a nifty, no, manly, driving layup with 36 seconds left to make it a four-point game.

A missed three by Vado Morse and a turnover by Molson sent Clark back to the line, where he made one of two to extend the lead to five.

Tyree Ihenacho missed a three with a second to go for JMU.

Inside the Numbers

Clark led Virginia with 18 points and seven assists in 39 grueling minutes with Beekman on the sidelines after the first media timeout of the night.

Jayden Gardner had 14 points (5-of-7 FG) and eight rebounds. He also had troubles at the line, connecting on just four of his eight tries.

Armaan Franklin opened the game with a three, but otherwise had a quiet night – eight points on 3-of-8 shooting, 2-of-5 from three, in 26 minutes, limited there by foul trouble.

Virginia shot 42.2 percent on the night (19-of-45) and was 5-of-21 (23.8 percent) from three.

JMU shot the aforementioned 27.3 percent from the field (15-of-55) and was 7-of-23 (30.4 percent) from three.

Madison won the rebounding battle, 41-33, with 13 of those offensive rebounds, though that only translated into a modest 7-2 advantage in second-chance points.

The stat of the night tonight is the missed free throws by Virginia.

Game Narrative

JMU had come in averaging 93.3 points on 73.1 possessions per game, and was obviously going to get nowhere near either against Virginia.

The game played to 60 possessions, right at the Virginia season average of 60.6.

Credit to the Dukes, though. KenPom.com projects JMU to win the Sun Belt, and if that ends up being the case, their rating would translate to them being a 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Mark Byington knows his team can run with teams in the Sun Belt. Tonight he learned that his team can slug it out with a Top 5 team that makes you play its game.

On the Virginia side, Tony Bennett had to win a game against a likely NCAA Tournament 12 seed without his best player, so he learned something about his team, too.

It was the second straight not-at-all pretty win for the ‘Hoos, but you have to be able to win ugly if you’re going to go far in March.

Chris Graham

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].

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