Kihei dominates late, surrounded by youth as UVA avenges loss in Italy; Bennett gets a technical

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Headed into overtime against a Serbian team that had pounded Virginia the day before, Tony Bennett put all his trust in fifth-year point guard Kihei Clark.

Clark responded with a game-high 23 points and dominated the second overtime with 10, to lead the Cavaliers to a 94-87 win over Basketball Club Mega MIS on Friday. Reece Beekman added 21 points for UVA.

What was remarkable about this Italian tour-ending triumph was that Virginia managed to avenge a loss to an opponent that had hammered the Cavaliers, 92-73, on Thursday, and did so without Kadin Shedrick (who had played spectacularly in the first three games of the tour), fifth-year senior Jayden Gardner and senior guard Armaan Franklin. Bennett, who was tagged with his first technical foul since his first year at UVA, has purposely sat three different players for each game of the trip to balance out playing time.

Instead, over the final overtime, Bennett went with youth to help Clark pull out the win. Sophomore Taine Murray and a trio of freshmen, Isaac Traudt, Ryan Dunn and Leon Bond, finished the game and knocked off the Serbs.

Behind Clark and Beekman’s 20-plus-point performances, transfer Ben Vander Plas put up 7 points, Murray 6, freshman Isaac McKneely 15 (3 of 5 from the 3-point line), Francisco Caffaro 9, Traudt 8, Bond 5 and Dunn 0.

UVA led 18-11 after the first quarter, 34-24 at halftime, 52-47 heading into the fourth and was deadlocked at the end of regulation at 69-all. The game was pushed to a second overtime before the Cavaliers prevailed.

“I thought we responded well,” Bennett told Virginiasports.com. “I thought we defended better. We were just better in all areas. Reece was so tough most of the game and then Kihei took over late.”

Apparently the officiating in the game was questionable at best. Bennett was hit with the technical with 1:52 to go in the first overtime.

“You had to overcome a lot of unique calls, a lot of unique situations,” Bennett said in post-game comments. “I just felt like there was some things out of our control that were really troubling.”

The coach rubbed off the technical quickly.

“I lost my mind,” admitted Bennett. “Everyone’s a competitor. They are, we are, the officials are, and I think my Italian bloodlines got the best of me in this place and time, because I let the officials know a few things that I probably shouldn’t have, but again, to have those young guys go through that and us to finish and handle adversity, that’s stuff you’re gonna see when [the season starts].”

Virginia returns home on Saturday with a 3-1 record.

 

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