No. 18 Cavaliers’ second-half flurry fuels 73-61 win in opener over NC Central

By Scott Ratcliffe

Armaan Franklin led all scorers with 21 points and 4 3-pointers Monday. (Photo: Matt Riley | UVA Athletics)

Virginia got a test in its 2022-23 season opener against North Carolina Central, falling behind by a point a little over five minutes into the second half. The Cavaliers responded with a 15-2 scoring run in less than four minutes to take back control, en route to a 73-61 win over the Eagles on Monday at John Paul Jones Arena.

Senior guard Armaan Franklin set the tone with a couple of big shots early on, as he led all scorers with 21 points, including a 4-for-7 performance from 3-point land.

He was one of four Cavaliers in double figures, as Reece Beekman, Kadin Shedrick and Francisco Caffaro each put up 10 points on the night.

Beekman, along with backcourt mate Kihei Clark and Ohio grad transfer Ben Vander Plas, each knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, while freshman guard Isaac McKneely made his collegiate debut, connecting on his first 3-pointer as a Wahoo in 23 minutes off the bench.

UVA (1-0) led by as many as 16 points in the first half, but the Eagles (0-1) kept chipping away, trimming that largest deficit in half by the break, 38-30.

NCCU used a 10-3 run early in the second half to get within three, 43-40, just before the first media timeout of the second half. A little more than a minute later, Eric Boone’s transition layup put the Eagles in front, 44-43, for the first time since it was 2-0, and JPJ briefly fell silent.

The Wahoos wasted no time regaining the momentum, however, as Clark answered with a 3 from the top of the key the next trip down, and then Beekman poked the ball free and slammed it home on a fast break, igniting the JPJ crowd in the process. Beekman followed with a 3-ball of his own, Caffaro threw one down on a nice assist from Clark, Vander Plas sank his second triple of his Cavalier debut, and Shedrick capped the run with a nice finish, and just like that, Virginia was back on top with a 58-46 advantage midway through the second half.

“It was a good response when we got a little shaky,” UVA coach Tony Bennett said of the spurt. “It’s nice to see a couple shots go down and get to the free trial line a lot. Credit to NC Central for making us work. They played hard and they didn’t back down on both ends. They were aggressive,”

Virginia senior forward Jayden Gardner, who led the team in scoring a year ago, struggled with his shot Monday (0 for 4 FG) and finished with just 3 points, but found other ways to contribute, hauling down a game-high 9 rebounds, with 4 of those coming on the offensive glass.

Shedrick was solid on the defensive end, collecting two blocks and a pair of steals to go with his 7 rebounds on the night.

“We all just realized we had to lock in at that moment and we couldn’t let them continue to build momentum,” Shedrick said of the brief second-half deficit. “The crowd stayed in it, which we all really appreciated, and we stayed in it too. We played hard and we were able to pull away which was really good. I’m not sure if last year’s team would’ve been able to do that early in the season, so that’s an area where we’ve improved,”

Clark finished with 9 points and 5 assists, while Beekman dished out 5 assists as well. Vander Plas registered 7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and a steal in his UVA debut in 23 minutes off the bench.

Franklin got it all started with a pair of long balls in less than a minute, giving the Hoos a quick 9-4 edge by the 16-minute mark. After sinking four-straight free throws, Franklin connected again from deep to give the Hoos their biggest lead of the night, 31-15, with 7:08 until halftime.

“It feels good seeing shots go down, but we know that we want to be more consistent,” said Franklin. “We had games last year where we’d shoot it well, and games where we didn’t, so building that consistency from deep is going to be really important.”

Virginia shot 43 percent from the field (20 for 47), 44 percent from long distance (11 for 25) and 73 percent from the charity stripe (22 for 30), outrebounding the Eagles, 37-27. Each team turned the ball over 8 times on the evening.

NCCU sophomore guard Justin Wright, a preseason All-MEAC first-team selection, led the Eagles with 20 points, while Boone added 18.

The Cavaliers will look to make it two in a row when they host Monmouth on Friday at 9 p.m. (Regional Sports Network).

Box Score

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • UVA began its 117th season of men’s basketball with the nonconference win
  • UVA is 23-2 in its last 25 season-opening games
  • UVA is 12-2 in season openers under head coach Tony Bennett
  • The Cavaliers are 95-23 all-time in 118 season-opening games
  • UVA is 88-10 at JPJ in non-conference action under Bennett
  • Bennett registered his 386th career win and 317th at UVA
  • UVA held its largest lead (16 points) at 31-15 in the first half
  • The Cavaliers led 38-30 at the half
  • UVA finished 11 of 25 from 3-point range and 22 of 30 from the free throw line
  • UVA’s 11 3-pointers were its most since making 11 vs. Syracuse in the 2021 ACC Tournament
  • NCCU went on a 12-0 run to gain a 44-43 lead
  • UVA is 145-11 when scoring 70 or more points under Bennett

Series Notes

  • This was the first meeting between the teams

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Armaan Franklin (21), Francisco Caffaro (10), Reece Beekman (10), Kadin Shedrick (10)
  • Jayden Gardner (3 points) surpassed 2,000 career points
  • Franklin recorded his fourth 20-point game at UVA (7th career)
  • Franklin has made 23 of 48 3-pointers in his last 10 games dating back to last season
  • Franklin reached double figures for the 37th time
  • Caffaro reached double figures for the fourth time
  • Beekman reached double figures for the 16th time
  • Shedrick reached double figures for the 13th time
  • Gardner added a game-high 9 rebounds
  • Ben Vander Plas (7 points, 4 rebounds) made his UVA debut after playing four years at Ohio University
  • Isaac McKneely (3 points) made his collegiate debut