Groves catches fire, Beekman heats up as UVA avenges loss to Irish, 65-53

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photos: Josie Drumheller, Virginia Athletics

Jake Groves drilled his first 3-point shot of the night, following previous triples from teammates Isaac McKneely and Reece Beekman. No big deal. Just another bucket that gave Virginia an 11-5 early lead against visiting Notre Dame.

Less than two minutes later, Groves hit another 3-pointer. The 6-foot-9 Oklahoma transfer glanced at the Virginia bench, shook his fist in the air and Beekman knew it was on. Might as well have been the UVA version of the “Bat Signal,” as if to indicate, “I’ve got this guys … you’re in my hands.”

“He hit his second 3, turned around to the bench and celebrated, and I was like, ‘Okay, he’s going to be on fire for the rest of the game,’” Beekman said after the Cavaliers handled the Fighting Irish, 65-53.

Virginia (16-5, 7-3 ACC) reeled off its fifth win in a row and extended the nation’s longest active home winning streak to 22 games while continuing Notre Dame’s frustration in Charlottesville. The Irish (7-14, 2-8) have never tasted victory in Charlottesville in nine trips over the years, something new coach Micah Shrewsberry was well aware of.

“I’ve never been here, it’s my first game [at UVA], but it’s a tough environment for Notre Dame in general,” Shrewsberry said. “So we knew it would be a tough task and we already have a small margin for error. The way [Virginia] shot the ball and the way we turned it over, just wasn’t the recipe for success.”

The Irish lost their sixth-straight game, all against ACC competition, and turned the ball over 18 times, which transitioned into 20 Virginia points. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers made 45 percent of their field-goal attempts (24 for 53), including a season-high 13 3-pointers in 25 attempts. UVA made a blistering 51.9 percent of its shots in the first half (9 of 15 from the arc) to open a 38-23 lead at the break.

Much of that offense firepower was delivered by Groves, who scored 18 points (6 of 8 from the 3-point line) and from Beekman, who matched a career high with 21 points (7 of 13 and 4 of 7 from the arc). Isaac McKneely added 11 with 3 triples.

For Groves, a grad transfer, it was like old times at Oklahoma. He had been on scoring tears before when he drilled 17 points against No. 6 Texas in the Big 12 opener a year ago, or 26 vs. Central Arkansas, 16 vs. Nebraska and Iowa State, 14 vs. Villanova.

And it felt good.

“Just seeing that first one going in is always nice and kind of gives you the confidence to keep shooting, keep shooting,” Groves grinned.

Tony Bennett and even Groves’ new teammates were well aware of his history at Oklahoma, and have been prompting the rangy dead eye to shoot more.

“They’ve been telling me that all year,” Groves said, always seemingly grinning. “I mean, they’ve been telling me that all year and so it’s kind of one of those things that you’re just used to hearing stuff and then at some point you kind of got to look yourself in the mirror and go, ‘Okay, that’s probably my role to shoot the ball more.”

Groves doesn’t normally celebrate shots, but he was feeling it early and couldn’t resist.

“But yeah, I mean, I get fired up a little bit if I go on those little runs,” Groves said.

He helped the Cavaliers get off to a solid start as they continued on a roll and avenged a late-December, lopsided loss at Notre Dame, when they couldn’t throw a beach ball into the ocean and couldn’t stop the Irish from having their way.

“Yes, we’ve improved, shortened our rotation in this game, but you know that doesn’t mean that’s going to be the case,” Bennett said about the contrast in the two meetings with the Irish. “Notre Dame is a team that has been very close in every game and when they’re shooting, they can stay attached.”

The Irish, led by guard Markus Burton’s 17 points and Braeden Shrewsberry’s 16, shot 46.5 percent for the game and 50 percent from the 3-point arc. While the Cavaliers seemed in control from the get-go, Notre Dame’s shooting did keep the visitors within striking distance throughout most of the second half, but the Irish never really threatened to wrangle the lead.

Beekman, who along with a couple of teammates was a little under the weather, still delivered, making 7 of 13 field-goal attempts, 4 of 7 from the arc, added 6 assists, a rare 5 turnovers and had 4 steals during a team-high 33 minutes, 33 seconds of court time. He also was assigned to Burton, who is projected as a potential NBA player.

“[Beekman] was a little gassed, under the weather, too,” Bennett said. “But I thought Reece was overall terrific. He wasn’t as sharp and sound with his sureness but some of the pull-ups, some of the drives, some of the steals and defensively guarding [Burton]. He has really improved his shot and he’s playing a real good floor game, but also finding the right mix of looking for his shot, and then he’s got to be just as stingy as possible defensively for us.”

The Cavaliers are in a stretch where they will play three games over a six-day span, traveling to Clemson in a big game on Saturday, then returning home to host Miami on Monday night.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • UVA (16-5, 7-3 ACC) has a five-game win streak and owns the nation’s longest home winning streak at 22 games
  • UVA is 12-0 at JPJ this season
  • UVA has held 47 straight ACC opponents to fewer than 70 points at John Paul Jones Arena
  • UVA shot 45.3 percent (24 of 53) and made a season-high 13 3-pointers (25 attempts)
  • UVA had 21 assists on 24 made field goals
  • UVA shot 51.9 percent (14 of 27), including 9 of 15 from 3-point range, en route to a 38-23 halftime lead
  • UVA forced three shot-clock violations (17 in 2023-24)

Series Notes

  • Virginia is 18-4 all-time vs. Notre Dame, including a 13-2 ACC regular-season record, in the series that dates to 1980-81
  • UVA is 9-0 against the Irish in Charlottesville
  • Notre Dame defeated Virginia 76-54 earlier this season
  • Head coach Tony Bennett is 14-3 all-time against Notre Dame, including a 61-41 win over the Fighting Irish as head coach at Washington State in the 2008 NCAA Tournament

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Reece Beekman (21), Jake Groves (18), Isaac McKneely (11)
  • Beekman matched a career high with 21 points
  • Beekman made a career-high four 3-pointers
  • Beekman attempted a career-high seven 3-point attempts
  • Beekman reached double figures for the 47th time
  • Beekman added a team-high four steals
  • Groves reached double figures for the 32nd time (6th at UVA)
  • Groves drilled a career-high six 3-pointers
  • Groves scored a season-high 18 points
  • McKneely reached double figures for the 17th time
  • McKneely (3 3-pointers) had his 15th game with 2 or more 3-pointers
  • Ryan Dunn (2 blocks) had his 13th multi-block game of the season