Red-hot Franklin puts up career-high 26 as Virginia stuns No. 5 Baylor, 86-79

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Armaan Franklin was a high-roller in Vegas on Friday when the red-hot Cavalier put up a career-high 26 points, leading Virginia to a stunning, 86-79 upset over No. 5 Baylor.

The Indiana transfer, who struggled with his shot during his first year at Virginia in 2020-21, blistered the nets at T-Mobile Arena, connecting on 7 of 12 shots from the field, 3 of 6 from the arc and 9 of 10 free throws. All of his triples came during a staggering 30-5 run during the first 10 minutes of the second half, when the No. 16 Cavaliers (3-0) took a 60-38 lead over the Bears (3-1).

“It just really felt good,” Franklin said of his performance. “Honestly, I’m just going out there and playing, trying to play smarter, trying to play hard, do whatever I have to do for the team and just staying confident.”

Last season, Franklin was mired in a shooting slump until late in the campaign when coaches discovered a flaw in his shooting techniques. He finished the season with confidence that has carried over.

In Virginia’s first three games this season, Franklin has made 9 of 17 of his 3-point attempts, 52.9 percent.

Clearly the difference in the game was UVA’s offensive explosion to start the second half, burying the Bears into a hole they couldn’t escape. After attempting only two 3-pointers in the first half and trailing 33-30 at the break, the Wahoos caught fire.

Virginia drilled eight 3-pointers during that run, reeling off 20-straight unanswered points during one stretch that boasted five consecutive triples by Franklin (two), Reece Beekman, Ben Vander Plas and freshman Ryan Dunn.

“That [run] gave us a distance and we certainly needed that the way they came back,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett. “We couldn’t stop them at the end, which was the disappointing part.”

While that scoring spree appeared to have been enough to smother the Bears, Baylor wasn’t throwing in the towel. Paced by sensational freshman guard Keyonte George and fullcourt defensive pressure, Baylor chopped away at Virginia’s lead and got within six points (79-73) with 1:04 to play.

The Cavaliers were clutch at the free-throw line the entire game, particularly in the second half, when they converted 22 of 26 foul shots (27 of 35 for the game). UVA made 7 of its last 8 free throws to thwart Baylor’s desperate fouling tactics.

In the end, UVA’s scoring outburst was the difference.

“The guys got hot, I mean everybody started shooting it, but we were getting good looks,” Bennett said. “They were rhythm shots. We just got freed up and from [Baylor’s] switch we got a few easy looks, and the guys made the shots and made a couple of tough ones.”

It was the first time since 2020 that Virginia had knocked off a top-5 ranked team, and the first time since the 2019 national championship season that the Cavaliers have posted nine or more 3-pointers in three consecutive games.

Bennett said he and his staff spotted something that he believed the Cavaliers could take advantage of in the second half.

“Once we did that, the game opened up,” Bennett said.

Franklin didn’t do it alone. His shooting was contagious. Kadin Shedrick posted 17 points (6-of-6 shooting) and recorded two blocked shots. Ohio transfer Vander Plas scored 14 points (4 of 5 from the field) and Beekman put up his second career double-double with 10 points and 10 assists. Kihei Clark and Jayden Gardner each scored seven points for the Cavaliers, who put up an eye-popping 56 points in the second half against a Baylor team that had won 41 of its last 44 games against nonconference opponents.

Franklin, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday, also played solid defense against Baylor’s George, considered one of the top players in college hoops. While George scored 20 points before fouling out, he was only 5 of 14 and committed five turnovers.

Bennett said his team played inspired basketball to honor the three slain UVA football players last Sunday night, D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler. The Cavaliers wore warm-up shirts with the fallen players’ names and numbers.

“There was a perspective in this game for us,” Bennett said. “We wanted to try to honor to the best of our abilities, our football team and our staff and of course the young men that went on to be with the Lord.”

Virginia will face No. 19 Illinois Sunday at 3 p.m. Eastern in the championship game of the Continental Tire Main Event. The Fighting Illini upset No. 8 UCLA, 79-70, in Friday’s nightcap.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • Virginia recorded its first top-five win since defeating then-No. 5 Florida State 61-56 on Jan. 28, 2020 at John Paul Jones Arena
  • The Cavaliers gained their first top-five win away from home since defeating then-No. 4 Duke 65-63 in Durham on Jan. 27, 2018
  • UVA is 3-0 for the first time since starting 7-0 in 2019-20
  • UVA is 49-41 against ranked foes in the Tony Bennett era
  • UVa started the second half on a 30-5 run
  • UVA shot 13 of 20 in the second half, including 8 of 12 from 3-point range
  • UVA shot 48 percent (12 of 25) in the first half and finished at 55.6 percent (25 of 45)
  • UVA’s largest lead was 22 (62-40 at 9:38)
  • UVA forced one shot clock violation
  • Baylor led 33-30 at the half
  • Virginia is 147-11 when scoring at least 70 or more points under Tony Bennett.
  • UVA is 3-0 when scoring 70 or more points in 2022-23.
  • Virginia is 42-1 all-time under when scoring 80 or more points under Bennett
  • The Cavaliers aim for their eighth November tournament championship in the last nine seasons vs. No. 19 Illinois on Sunday

Bennett Wins Watch

  • Tony Bennett (319-117, 14 seasons) needs eight wins to pass Terry Holland (326-173, 16 seasons) as the all-time winningest coach at UVA
  • Bennett (388-150) needs 12 wins to reach 400 career wins

Series Notes

• Virginia is 1-1 all-time vs. Baylor

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Armaan Franklin (26), Kadin Shedrick (17), Ben Vander Plas (14), Reece Beekman (10)
  • Franklin had a career-high 26 points
  • Franklin also set career bests in made free throws (9) and free throws attempted (10)
  • Franklin recorded his fifth 20-point game at UVA (8th career)
  • Franklin reached double figures for the 38th time
  • Vander Plas reached double figures for the 87th time (2nd at UVA)
  • Beekman reached double figures for the 17th time
  • Shedrick reached double figures for the 14th time
  • Beekman recorded his second career double-double with 10 points and 10 assists
  • Beekman (10 assists) has handed out five more assists in nine consecutive games dating back to last season