Gardner’s season-high 26 leads No. 5 Hoos to 72-45 win over UMES

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia senior forward Jayden Gardner broke out of his scoring slump in a big way against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Friday night at John Paul Jones Arena, pouring in a game-high and season-high 26 points as the Cavaliers improved to 5-0 with an easy 72-45 win.

During one stretch late in the opening half, Gardner made six-straight shots and scored a dozen-straight points in less than five minutes.

After outscoring the undersized Hawks (2-4) by 18 in the first half, the Cavaliers’ lead ballooned to 21, 48-27, on a Reece Beekman-to-Armaan Franklin alley-oop early in the second, and the Wahoos kept their foot on the gas.

Gardner stayed hot, scoring left and right, with Kadin Shedrick sprinkling in a powerful two-hand flush off a UMES turnover, as the Cavaliers made 7 of their first 9 shots out of the halftime break and maintained a lead of 20-plus for the majority of the second half.

“The guys found him and so that was good to see, because I think he’s been a little bit rushed at times, but we’re going to need that offensive punch that he gives us,” Coach Tony Bennett said of Gardner’s big night. “Because when he’s aggressive but not rushing, that’s when he’s at his best, and I think that really helps us.”

Kihei Clark scored on a nifty take in the key that gave UVA a 60-38 advantage before the shot clock expired with 8:52 to play.

The Hoos missed 10 of their 11 shot attempts until a Francisco Caffaro follow of an Isaac McKneely miss, while the Hawks went over seven minutes themselves without a field goal, and Virginia still led by 23, 62-39, at the final media timeout with 2:49 left.

McKneely put the icing on the cake with back-to-back 3-pointers, his lone baskets of the game, and then Chase Coleman got into the act with a triple from the corner in the final minute.

“We neutralized their best guards, and that was a key for us,” said UMES coach Jason Crafton. “We said if we’re gonna lose, we’re gonna lose on their forwards making foul-line jump shots, and [Jayden] Gardner made a whole lot of those bad boys.”

The Cavaliers shot 53 percent on the night (27 for 51) despite struggling from the perimeter, as they made just 5 of 15 (33 percent) from long range. UVA won the rebounding battle, 33-29, and assisted on 18 of its 27 makes. The Hoos scored 40 points in the paint and 20 points off of 15 UMES giveaways.

Gardner made 12 of his 15 field-goal attempts on the night to pace the effort. Shedrick was the only other Cavalier in double figures with 13 points to go with 3 rebounds and a pair of blocks. Beekman stuffed the stat sheet with 9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals and a block, while Ben Vander Plas led the team in rebounding with 7 boards and Clark added a game-high 8 assists.

Zion Styles was the only Hawk in double figures with 11 points, as UMES shot 35 percent (19 for 55) and 17 percent (3 for 18) from beyond the arc.

UVA scored the game’s first 8 points, capped by a Clark-to-Shedrick oop that electrified the sellout JPJ crowd just over two minutes in. UMES got on the board right around the 17-minute mark on an Ahamadou Fofana basket. Gardner converted on a sweet spin and baseline drive to quickly make it 10-2 just before the game’s first media timeout.

Beekman scored on a nice drive to the hole for his first bucket, then Vander Plas beat the shot clock with a jumper for the Hoos’ first double-digit lead of the night, 14-4. Beekman scored again before a steal led to a Franklin 3 on the other end to stretch the lead to 16, 20-4. Virginia connected on 8 of its first 10 shots, while UMES misfired on 8 of its first 10.

Nathaniel Pollard’s three-point play cut the Virginia lead back to 10, 20-10, midway through the half, and then a Styles basket trimmed it back to single digits moments later, as the Hoos missed five in a row and went nearly five minutes without scoring until a Shedrick and-one putback ended the drought and gave the Cavaliers a 23-12 lead coming out of the under-eight break.

Gardner scored off of a steal on a perfectly placed Shedrick assist in transition, then connected again from in close to make it 30-16, as the Cavaliers forced a shot-clock violation on the Hawks’ ensuing possession.

“I thought we really struggled to score the basketball the first four minutes of the game and probably set the tone for them,” Crafton said. “We just came out flat, didn’t execute. A lot of that has to do with their ability to be big, physical, and get to our guards. We couldn’t get downhill, we couldn’t run much of anything.”

Gardner then stepped back and sank a long jumper to give himself a dozen first-half points to match his then-season high, which he set last time out against Illinois. He then eclipsed that mark with another basket on a feed from Clark to push the lead to 36-20 with 2:48 to play.

Gardner kept it rolling, knocking down his eighth and ninth baskets of the half, the latter along with a foul and a free throw which rattled out, but the Hoos closed the half on an 8-2 run and led the Hawks at halftime, 40-22.

Gardner finished the half with a game-high 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting, while the team went into the locker room shooting 60 percent (15 for 25) from the floor and 40 percent (2 for 5) from downtown.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • UVA is 5-0 for the first time since starting 7-0 in 2019-20
  • UVA is 108-2, including a 2-0 mark in 2022-23, when limiting foes to fewer then 50 points during the Tony Bennett era
  • Bennett-coached teams are 133-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 50 points (25-1 in three years at Washington State)
  • UVA is 149-11 when scoring 70 or more points under Bennett
  • UVA has scored 70 or more points in its first five games for the first time since starting the 2018-19 season with five games of 70 or more points
  • UVA is 160-47 in non-conference action under Tony Bennett
  • UVA is 90-10 in non-conference action under Tony Bennett at John Paul Jones Arena
  • UVA outscored UMES 40-22 in the paint
  • UVA’s 10 steals marked a season high
  • The Cavaliers shot a season-best 60 percent in the first half (15 of 25) en route to a 40-22 lead at intermission
  • UVA started the game on an 8-0 run and led 20-4 at 10:56 of the first half
  • UVA forced two shot-clock violations

Bennett Wins Watch

  • Tony Bennett (321-117, 14 seasons) needs six wins to pass Terry Holland (326-173, 16 seasons) as the all-time winningest coach at UVA
  • Bennett (390-150) needs 10 wins to reach 400 career wins

Series Notes

  • Virginia is 3-0 all-time vs. Maryland Eastern Shore

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Jayden Gardner (26), Kadin Shedrick (13)
  • Gardner recorded his 41st career 20-point game (8th at UVA)
  • Gardner reached double figures for the 105th time
  • Gardner scored 18 of his season-high 26 points in the first half
  • Shedrick reached double figures for the 15th time
  • Shedrick matched a career high with three steals
  • Shedrick (2 blocks) had his 23rd multi-block game
  • Reece Beekman had a season-high four steals
  • Kihei Clark (4,400 minutes) moved past UVA legend Bryant Stith (4,391 minutes from 1989-92) for second on UVA’s career minutes list and 20th on the ACC’s Career Minutes Played list.
  • Clark moved into eighth on UVA’s career games list with 133
  • Clark had a game-high eight assists

The Cavaliers travel to face Michigan on Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. (ESPN) as part of the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge.