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Virginia tunes up for ACC play with easy win over Fairleigh Dickinson

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Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Virginia did what was expected in its matchup with winless Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday afternoon: win going away, and getting out without any injuries.

The ‘Hoos (7-4) got 29 points from Jayden Gardner, the most for a Cavalier since Kyle Guy put up 29 in a UVA win over NC State in the 2019 ACC Tournament, according to my esteemed colleague, Jerry Ratcliffe, in the 82-49 win.

Armaan Franklin added 12, including a three (!), his first make from long-range after an 0-of-20 streak.

And also: no injuries, as coach Tony Bennett was able to go to his bench early and often.

Gardner was 14-of-18 from the floor, 12 of the makes either layups or dunks, in 27 minutes.

The approach with the rotation was to attack the paint and the rim, and it worked: Virginia was 19-of-26 on layups and dunks.

Last time out, in the 52-49 loss at JMU last week, 26 of the 50 shots from the floor for UVA were threes, and the Cavaliers were just 4-of-26 on those.

What also worked: when Bennett went to the subs, bringing freshmen Igor Milicic Jr. and Taine Murray and sophomore Carson McCorkle in for the bulk of the final 11:01, the shots from long-range started falling.

Virginia had made one three total in the first 29 minutes, an early second-half jumper from the corner from Franklin.

The ‘Hoos went 8-of-12 from three in the final 12:01, including draining seven in a row over a four-and-a-half-minute stretch late.

Milicic Jr. and McCorkle each were 3-of-4 on threes in garbage time. Neither saw the floor until the final 12:01.

Sophomore walk-on Malachi Poindexter did get rotation minutes – 14 of them – and scored a career-high seven points, on 3-of-3 shooting, 1-of-1 from three, with three assists.

Maybe some more rotation minutes for those guys, maybe less for good ol’ Kody Stattmann, who played 16 minutes, took four shots, three from three, missed them all, though he did contribute three rebounds and three assists.

Stattmann is averaging 2.2 points per game in 12 rotation minutes per game this season.

It’s hard to figure why he continues to get rotation minutes.

It’s also hard to figure what Bennett is doing to Murray, who seemed to have played his way into the rotation with his effort in the loss to Iowa a couple of weeks ago, when he scored 14 points in 21 minutes off the bench.

Murray logged 16 minutes in the win over Pitt and 12 minutes in the loss at JMU, then didn’t get into the game until the 9:16 mark today.

It’s understood that you don’t get into the game for Bennett until you can play defense, but that said, the lack of perimeter shooting has been glaring, and was even in this game.

Bennett sacrificed defense for offense last season to get Jay Huff, Sam Hauser and Trey Murphy III on the floor together as much as possible.

He may have to make a similar sacrifice this season to get more minutes for Milicic, Murray and McCorkle, to account for the lack of perimeter productivity from Franklin, who has not lived up to expectations – shooting just 21.1 percent from behind the arc this season, after shooting 42.4 percent from long-range a season ago at Indiana.

So, good win, but still a lot more questions than answers, 11 games in.

Story by Chris Graham

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