Seniors shine as Hoos roll past Yellow Jackets, 72-57, in regular-season finale

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia closed out the 2023-24 regular season in style Saturday with a convincing, 72-57 win on Senior Night over visiting Georgia Tech. With the victory, the Cavaliers locked up the No. 3 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.

John Paul Jones Arena was rocking all night long, as all four of the team’s seniors — Reece Beekman, Jake Groves, Jordan Minor and Tristan How — contributed in the big win.

As he has been all season, Beekman was the star of the show, saving one of his best performances for last in front of the JPJ crowd. The fourth-year floor general led the Wahoos in scoring (game-high 21 points), assists (game-high 9) and steals (game-high 3), while also matching team highs in rebounding (6) and blocks (1), and only turning the ball over once in 35 minutes.

Graduate transfers Groves and Minor both got the start in their final home game, and both delivered one last memorable outing. Groves sank three 3-pointers and finished with 9 points, while Minor added 4 points on a couple of timely buckets.

After chants of, “We want Tristan,” filled the crowd down the stretch, How was inserted into the lineup in the final minute, and the Virginia Beach native capped the day with a turnaround jumper to send the building into a frenzy with 14 seconds left.

“That was a heck of a little fallaway,” Tony Bennett said with a grin in his postgame comments of How’s late bucket, the latest in a long line of UVA reserves shining on their big day.

“Certainly to see [Groves] play like that, Jordan out there gave us some good minutes, and I thought Reece, once again, you look at his stat line… really good.”

After the game, the coach grabbed the microphone and publicly saluted Beekman for breaking the school’s all-time steals record. Bennett went on to praise Beekman in the postgame press conference for staying in Charlottesville all four years and giving his all through hard work, steady improvement and leadership.

“Let’s talk about that,” an emotional Bennett said of Beekman’s contributions. “I know we talk a lot about the transfer portal, I know we talk a lot about NIL… but this young man chose to come here, he’s the career leader in steals, he’s won two ACC championships. He’s done so much, and that’s what’s right, and it’s good to see.”

In addition to the senior send-off, sophomore Isaac McKneely and junior Taine Murray each had a memorable evening of their own, combining for 28 points. McKneely poured in 16, including 4 makes from 3-point range, while Murray added 12 in a career-high 28 minutes off the bench, knocking down a pair from beyond the arc.

The game was tightly contested early on until the Hoos caught fire from downtown, sinking 7 of them — Beekman, McKneely and Groves all drilled a pair — in the opening half en route to a 38-24 halftime advantage, punctuated by a long iMac triple with 21 ticks showing.

Virginia (22-9, 13-7 ACC) picked up right where it left off to begin the second half, as Groves, McKneely and Murray each connected from deep before the first media break, and the Cavaliers led by a 49-34 margin.

The Hoos led by as many as 23 points, shooting 52 percent on the night (29 for 56), 46 percent from 3-point land (12 of 26) and 50 percent (2 for 4) from the charity stripe.

The Cavaliers were defeated in the rebounding department, 34-25, but converted 12 Yellow Jacket turnovers into 19 points on the opposite end of the floor, racking up 9 steals and blocking 4 shots along the way.

Tech (14-17, 7-13) shot 40 percent (21 for 52) from the field, 19 percent (4 of 21) from 3-point range and 85 percent (11 for 13) from the free-throw line.

Baye Ndongo led the Ramblin’ Wreck with 21 points (8 for 12 FG) and a game-high 9 rebounds, while fellow freshman Naithan George and senior Kyle Sturdivant added 8 points apiece in the losing effort.

Tech’s leading scorer on the season, Miles Kelly (14.6 ppg coming into the weekend), was held scoreless by the UVA defense Saturday on 0-for-4 shooting (0 for 3 from downtown).

Now, the Hoos will try to make some noise next weekend in the nation’s capital and attempt to boost their NCAA Tournament hopes in process.

“We’ve come to work every day, put the work in like we were still in the hunt,” said Beekman of the ups and downs of the campaign, “but I feel like we put ourselves in a great position for postseason play. I think we’ve just got to build off this win today and try to get better.”

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • Virginia (22-9, 13-7 ACC) earned the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament with the win
  • UVA has won 22 or games in 11 of 15 seasons under Tony Bennett
  • UVA has 13 or more league wins in six of the last seven seasons
  • The Cavaliers finished with a 15-2 record at John Paul Jones Arena in 2023-24, marking the ninth time UVA has won 15 or more home games
  • UVA is 168-11 all-time when scoring 70 or more points under Bennett
  • UVA is 11-0 when scoring 70 or more points in 2023-24
  • UVA led 38-24 at the half and improved to 20-0 when leading at halftime
  • UVA shot 51.8 percent (29 of 56), including 12 of 26 from 3-point range
  • UVA made 10 or more 3-pointers for the eight time and first since drilling 10 at Florida State on Feb. 10
  • UVA attempted a season-low four free throws
  • UVA forced one shot-clock violation (26 in 2023-24)

Series Notes

  • Virginia is 49-40 all-time vs. Georgia Tech, including a 27-11 mark in Charlottesville, in a series that dates to 1947-48
  • The Cavaliers have a 12-game win streak in the series and 10-game home win streak against the Yellow Jackets
  • Virginia is 20-2 in its last 22 games against Georgia Tech, including a 19-2 mark under head coach Tony Bennett

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Reece Beekman (21), Isaac McKneely (16), Taine Murray (12)
  • Beekman matched a career high with 21 points
  • Beekman moved into 42nd on UVA’s all-time scoring list with 1,152 points
  • Beekman reached double figures for the 56th time (26 in 2023-24)
  • McKneely reached double figures for the 25th time
  • Murray reached double figures for the fourth time (3 in 2023-24)
  • Murray played a career-high 28 minutes
  • Beekman (9 assists) moved into seventh on UVA’s single-season assist list with 18
  • UVA honored seniors Tristan How, Jordan Minor, Jake Groves and Reece Beekman and managers Joe Busch, Wayne Yen and Brian Rodgers in a pregame ceremony


As mentioned, the Cavaliers earned a double-bye for next week’s ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C., and will begin competition at Capital One Arena on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. They will take on either No. 6 seed Clemson, No. 11 seed Boston College or No. 14 seed Miami in Thursday’s quarterfinal round (see complete bracket below box score).