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Virginia avoids late meltdown, defeats Mississippi State, 60-57, in NIT first round

francisco caffaro NIT
Francisco Caffaro throws down two. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Virginia had every chance to close out Mississippi State at the free throw line, but it took a missed Bulldogs three at the buzzer to finish the 60-57 win on Wednesday in the first round of the NIT.

The Cavaliers (20-13) advance to face #2 seed North Texas (25-6), which defeated Texas State, 67-63, on Tuesday, in the second round on Sunday. Tipoff at Super Pit in Denton, Texas, is set for 6 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

UVA led by eight at the half, but a 15-5 Mississippi State run put the Bulldogs up, 34-32, five minutes into the second 20.

A 12-2 Virginia run over a subsequent 4:37 stretch, punctuated by a fast-break layup by Taine Murray, got the ‘Hoos back up eight, at 46-38, with 9:21 on the clock.

Up next was a mini-Garrison Brooks show. The UNC transfer hit three threes in a 1:45 span to get MSU back to down one, 54-53, on the third triple, with 2:44 left.

Armaan Franklin answered with his second three of the night to put UVA up 57-53 with 1:55 left.

Things got testy in the final minute. After an Iverson Molinar miss with 40 seconds left, Francisco Caffaro was fouled on the rebound by Andersson Garcia.

Brooks, during the dead ball after the foul call, took a shove from Brooks, who after a lengthy replay review was assessed with a technical foul.

Virginia could have moved in the direction of icing the game here, but Kihei Clark missed the first of the two technical free throws to leave the door slightly ajar.

Reece Beekman hit both ends of a one-and-one after the technical to push Virginia to a 60-53 lead with 35 seconds on the clock.

It took Mississippi State 17 seconds to work a jumper out of center Tolu Smith that cut the lead to 60-55.

Clark missed the front end of a one-and-one, and the ‘Dogs cut the lead to three on a stickback by Cameron Matthews with five seconds left.

Jayden Gardner then clanked both ends of a two-shot foul, and all MSU needed was a prayer three.

Virginia had two fouls to give, and used one to force Mississippi State to inbounds with 2.5 seconds on the clock.

The inbounds got a decent look for Molinar, whose fadeaway from the left corner hit the front rim and bounded off harmlessly as the buzzer sounded.

Player Notes

  • Gardner had 16 points, 14 in the second half, on 7-of-13 shooting to lead Virginia.
  • Beekman had 14 points (5-of-7 FG) and six assists. Clark had eight points (1-of-3 FG, 6-of-8 FT) and nine assists.
  • Smith had 16 points and 11 rebounds for MSU, and Brooks and Molinar each chipped in 13.

Game Notes

  • Virginia shot 50 percent (23-of-46) from the field and 12-of-17 at the line
  • Breakdown: Virginia shot 11-of-12 at the rim, 2-of-12 on threes and 10-of-22 on two-point jumpers
  • Mississippi State was also 50 percent (23-of-46) from the floor, and was 7-of-11 at the line
  • Breakdown: MSU shot 16-of-18 at the rim, 4-of-13 from three and 3-of-12 on two-point jumpers
  • Points in the paint: Mississippi State 32, Virginia 30
  • Points off turnovers: Virginia 17, Mississippi State 10
  • Efficiency: Virginia 1.053 points per possession, Mississippi State 1.000 points per possession

Story by Chris Graham

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