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Virginia guts out 73-70 win over Florida in Charlotte to improve to 2-0

Chris Graham
uva basketball
Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia led by as many as 11 in the second half, but the ‘Hoos had to take care of Florida in the final minute in a 73-70 win over the Gators on Friday in Charlotte.

The revelation: four-star freshman big Blake Buchanan, who seems to have earned himself starter minutes at the five, after going for 18 points and seven boards in 27 minutes, 14 of the points coming in the second half.

The starter at the five spot, Oklahoma grad transfer Jake Groves, was limited to 16 minutes with foul trouble, but he finished with 12 points in 16 minutes.

Florida (1-1) dominated the paint early, with the Gators scoring 18 of their first 21 points in the painted area, but Virginia would take a 39-35 lead into the half on the strength of good shooting – 17-of-34 from the floor, and 4-of-8 from three.

The Cavaliers (2-0) would extend the lead to 54-43 with 13:27 to go on a post jumper from Groves, the last of his 10 points in a row in a 2:28 stretch.

A 12-0 Florida run over the next 5:12 put the Gators on top for the first time since late in the first half, and it was a pitched battle from there.

Enter Buchanan, who went to the line 16 times in the second half, continually pressuring Florida’s bigs with his motor and physicality.

A pair of Buchanan free throws with 1:02 to go broke a 69-69 tie and put UVA on top by two.

Walter Clayton Jr., an Iona transfer in his second game in a Gators uniform, made the back end of a two-shot foul at the 51-second mark to get the margin back to one.

Reece Beekman, who had 10 points in the first half, but struggled with his shot in the second half – 1-of-5 from the floor, 1-of-4 from the line – turned the ball over with 28 seconds to go, giving Florida the ball with the chance to take the late lead.

The reigning, defending ACC Defensive Player of the Year made up for the miscue on the other end, hounding Clayton into a turnover with 12 seconds left.

Buchanan, who ended up with the ball after the turnover, was fouled, and made one of two from the line on the other end to put Virginia up two.

Beekman’s defense prevented Florida from getting a shot up for a tie or the win, with the senior stealing a Clayton pass and taking it upcourt.

Beekman made one of two at the line for the final margin.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].