Hoos fight back, but come up short in final seconds at No. 22 Miami, 66-64

By Scott Ratcliffe

Ben Vander Plas scored a team-high 20 points off the bench against Miami. (Photo: UVA Athletics)

No. 6 Virginia fought back from multiple double-digit deficits Tuesday night at No. 22 Miami, and had a chance to tie or win it on the game’s final possession, but junior point guard Reece Beekman lost control of the ball on his way to the hoop in the closing seconds, and time ran out on the Cavalier comeback in a 66-64 defeat.

The loss snapped a six-game UVA win streak in the series, as the Hoos dropped consecutive games for the first time since falling to Duke and Florida State in February.

Leading by 10 at halftime, the Hurricanes (12-1, 3-0 ACC) scored the first five points of the second half, as Virginia misfired on its first six shots out of the locker room (the Cavaliers missed nine in a row dating back to the opening half).

Facing a 41-26 deficit, the Wahoos (8-2, 1-1) went on a 16-2 run to get within a point, 43-42, capped off by a personal 10-point flurry by Ben Vander Plas — on just three shots. Freshman Isaac McKneely sank a long triple to make it a single-digit affair before Vander Plas was knocked to the floor on a 3-point attempt from the corner that bounced in. The Ohio grad transfer sank the ensuing free throw for the four-point play, and then after Miami missed its eighth shot out of its previous nine attempts, Vander Plas followed that up with two more 3-pointers to make it a brand new ballgame with still 8:54 remaining.

“Obviously it’s good to see some shots fall, especially after the last couple of games of shooting for me,” said Vander Plas, who was 1 for 14 from downtown over his last three games (0 of 9 in the last two against JMU and Houston). “We started off kind of slow and we had to claw back into it. It’s just tough playing against a good team like that when you spot them some points and don’t start off as sharp as you need to, but I thought the guys did a good job fighting back. Obviously not the outcome we want, but we’ll get back to work.”

Miami answered with a 12-4 spurt of its own to push the lead back to nine, 55-46, by the final media timeout with 3:57 to play.

Kihei Clark knocked down 5 of his 6 free-throw attempts over the next 1:14 to draw the Hoos within two possessions, 57-51, as Miami’s one true big man, Norchad Omier, fouled out with 2:43 to play. UVA coach Tony Bennett decided to keep his starting bigs, Jayden Gardner and Kadin Shedrick, on the bench, as his team continued to claw back, but Kansas State transfer Nijel Pack hit a long 3-pointer to push the lead back to nine, 60-51, with 2:21 left. That turned out to be Miami’s last field-goal make of the night.

When it looked like that was all she wrote, the Hoos mounted one final rally. Down by 10 approaching the one-minute mark, Beekman scored the Cavaliers’ first field goal in 4:28 and got fouled, but missed the ensuing free throw. Vander Plas was there for the tip-in to cut it to six, and then Virginia quickly sent Bensley Joseph to the other end for a one-and-one opportunity.

Joseph missed the front end, McKneely hauled in the rebound, and then Beekman found Vander Plas for an easy dunk that trimmed Miami’s lead to four, 61-57, with 43 ticks left. Clark came up with a takeaway and scored with 26 seconds to go to make it a two-point contest, 61-59. Jordan Miller made both of his free throws three seconds later before Beekman raced to the hole to make it 63-61 with 17 seconds to play.

Isaiah Wong then calmly sank a pair on the other end, giving the Hurricanes a 65-61 edge with 14.8 on the clock. With time winding down, Clark was fouled on a 3-point attempt from the wing, and nailed all three freebies to make it a one-point game, 65-64, with just 5.6 seconds showing.

Pack was immediately fouled on the Miami inbounds pass, and he missed the first of two from the charity stripe. After he made the second, Virginia had to travel the length of the floor with no timeouts, down by two.

Beekman caught the inbounds pass, hustled hard down the floor with the game on the line, and began to make a gathering move toward the basket, but the ball popped free and the final buzzer sounded.

“I thought the guys did a good job to execute and fight their way and claw their way back to get us to that point to have a chance even, so that part was good,” Bennett said afterwards. “So there’s some positives there and, again, there’ll be some good healthy competition now.”

Miami jumped out to a 12-2 lead to start the contest before the Cavaliers were able to trim it to 14-10 by the under-12-minute timeout of the first half. The Canes maintained a comfortable advantage for the rest of the half and took a 36-26 lead into the break.

“I think we dug ourselves a hole the way we started,” said Bennett. “We did not come out with really the soundness or the urgency required against a talented offensive team.”

Vander Plas led the Cavaliers with 20 points (7 for 13 FG, 4 for 9 from downtown) off the bench, while Clark, who was just 2 for 10 from the field, scored 8 of his 13 points from the charity stripe (8 for 9). Beekman came up shy of a triple double, finishing with 10 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists in the loss. Gardner added 8 points, while Shedrick scored 2 points on 1 of 2 shooting in just 11 minutes of playing time. Senior guard Armaan Franklin went scoreless (0 for 7 FG, 0 for 3 from long range) in 13 minutes of action.

The Cavaliers were 22 for 60 from the field (37 percent), 6 of 23 from beyond the arc (26 percent) and 14 for 19 from the line (74 percent), finishing dead even in the battle of the boards, 37-37. UVA assisted on all but five field goals (17 of 22), and outscored the Canes 31-8 in bench points, 28-18 in the paint, and 11-3 off turnovers.

Miami shot 40 percent for the game (21 for 53), 32 percent from deep (7 of 22) and 77 percent from the foul line (17 for 22). Wong led all scorers with 24 points to go with his 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Miller (11 points), Omier (10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks) and Pack (10 points) also scored in double figures.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • UVA (8-2, 1-1 ACC) is 2-2 vs. ranked opponents
  • Kihei Clark’s three free throws cut the Miami lead to 65-64
  • UVA went on an 8-0 run to close the margin to 61-59
  • UVA went on a 16-2 run to cut the Miami lead to 43-42
  • UVA held Miami to a scoring drought of 5:57 in the second half
  • Miami went on a 12-0 run to gain a 12-2 lead
  • Thirteen of UVA’s 26 first-half points were scored off the bench (Vander Plas 5, Caffaro 4, Murray 2, McKneely 2)
  • Miami led 36-26 at the half

Series Notes

  • Virginia is 15-13 all-time vs. Miami in the series that dates back to 1965-66
  • The loss ended UVA’s six-game winning streak vs. Miami, including a three-game winning streak at Watsco Center
  • The Cavaliers are 4-8 against the Hurricanes in Coral Gables
  • Fourteen of the last 16 meetings between the teams have been decided by 10 points or less
  • Head coach Tony Bennett is 12-7 all-time against Miami
  • Virginia and Miami met as ranked foes for the first time since March 11, 2016, when the No. 4 Cavaliers topped the No. 11 Hurricanes 73-68 in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Ben Vander Plas (20), Kihei Clark (13), Reece Beekman (10)
  • Vander Plas had season highs in points (20), 3-pointers (4) and 3-point attempts (9)
  • Vander Plas reached double figures for the 89th time (4th at UVA)
  • Clark reached double figures for the 58th time
  • Beekman reached double figures for the 20th time
  • Beekman added a season-high nine rebounds and eight assists
  • Clark is tied for first on UVA’s career games list with 138
  • Clark (590 assists) moved into sole possession of third on UVA’s all-time assists list

The Hoos will break for the holidays before closing out the nonconference portion of the schedule next Wednesday (Dec. 28) against Albany. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the game will be televised on ACC Network.