Cavaliers host Aggies in non-conference action on Tuesday

By Scott Ratcliffe

uva Basketball

Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia returns to action on Tuesday night with a 7-p.m. tipoff against North Carolina A&T at John Paul Jones Arena, the first of two midweek games for the Cavaliers.

UVA moved to 2-0 on the season with a 73-70 win over Florida on Friday in the Hall of Fame Series matchup in Charlotte.

“I like that they just kept their composure and they battled through some mistakes and a couple of breakdowns, and then had to make some plays,” Tony Bennett said about his team after the win.

Freshman forward Blake Buchanan led the way with 18 points, including some important free throws down the stretch, while senior point guard Reece Beekman came away with the game-sealing steal in the closing seconds to help the Wahoos escape with the victory over the Gators.

“Just to be in these positions with a new team, I feel like that’s going to take us a long way,” Beekman said of pulling out the win in tough conditions. “You’ve got to go through things — even if we had lost, it still would’ve been a good opportunity just to learn from that and be in those positions, so later down the road, we’ll be a little bit more comfortable, but I’m glad we [stuck] with it today and came out with the win.”

Sophomore Ryan Dunn had an impressive all-around performance, leading the team with 8 rebounds and a school-record 7 steals, part of a 15-steal night for the Hoos, the most by a UVA team since 2015. Jake Groves, Isaac McKneely and Andrew Rohde combined for 5 triples and Dante Harris chipped in with 6 points, 2 assists and a pair of steals in 15 minutes off the bench.

Bennett pointed out that there are still some things to work on — particularly defensive rebounding and free-throw shooting — but knows it will all help his squad down the road. UVA was outrebounded by 17 against Florida, and shot just 58 percent (14 for 24) from the stripe after a 62-percent performance (24 of 39) in the opener against Tarleton State.

“We struggled our first game from the line, we weren’t great this game,” said Bennett, “but then made some down the stretch, so those are invaluable experiences — especially when we have one starter back and so many new guys… That’s important to be in those situations.”

NC A&T is in its second year competing out of the Coastal Athletic Association (formerly the Colonial Athletic Association), finishing 13-19 last season (8-10, sixth place in the CAA) in 2022-23 under then-first-year head coach Phillip Shumpert.

The Aggies are off to an 0-2 start after getting walloped at Pitt, 100-52, in their season opener before falling by 16 at UNC Greensboro over the weekend.

A&T checks in at No. 356 (out of 362 Division-I schools) in the latest KenPom rankings, while Virginia is at No. 23 overall.

The Aggies are led by sophomore guard Landon Glasper, who is averaging 19.0 points per contest. He poured in 32 (including 5 3-pointers) in the loss to UNCG last week. Two other guards, junior Kyle Duke (11.5 ppg) and sophomore Camian Shell (10.0 ppg), are also averaging double figures through the first two games.