UVA fends off Gators, 73-70, thanks to late Beekman takeaway

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Boy, are Virginia basketball fans happy to have Reece Beekman back for one more season. The senior point guard proved why he’s regarded as one of the top defensive players in the country in the waning seconds of a two-point game against Florida on Friday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, part of the Hall of Fame Series.

The reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year was able to poke the ball loose from UF point guard Walter Clayton Jr., and hustle to the other end of the court before getting fouled with 0.7 seconds left. Beekman split his free throws before the Gators’ last-chance heave fell to the floor, and the Cavaliers escaped with a 73-70 win to remain unbeaten on the young season.

Freshman Blake Buchanan was another big reason why the Wahoos emerged victorious, scoring 14 of his game-high 18 points after halftime. The 6-foot-11, 225-pounder from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho got off to a rough start from the free-throw line, misfiring on 4 of his first 5, but then made his next 6 and knocked down 9 of his next 11 attempts on the night — all of them in the second half.

Buchanan, who also hauled in 7 rebounds and connected on 4 of his 7 field-goal attempts, made 3 of his last 4 from the stripe over the final 1:03, the first 2 of which broke a 69-69 tie and put the Cavaliers ahead to stay.

Beekman was relatively quiet offensively in the second half (1 for 5 from the field, 3 points), but made up for it on the defensive end, recording 3 of his 4 steals after the break. He finished the contest with 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting (2 of 4 from deep), 5 assists, 3 rebounds and a block across 34 minutes, turning the ball over just once.

The Gators (1-1) grabbed an early 12-4 advantage before the Wahoos rattled off 14 of the next 16 points and led 18-14 midway through the first half. The lead seesawed back and forth until the Hoos closed the half with an 8-3 spurt over the last three minutes and took a 39-35 edge into the locker room.

Buchanan and Groves were the only two UVA players in the scoring column in the second half until Isaac McKneely sank a triple with 6:35 remaining to give his team a 60-57 lead. At one point, Groves scored 10-consecutive Cavalier points, the last two of which gave Virginia its largest lead of the game, 54-43, with 13:28 to play.

The Hoos went cold and the Gators stormed back, however, using a 14-1 run of their own to go back on top, 57-55, with 7:39 on the clock. UVA held a 62-57 advantage coming out of the final media timeout before Florida’s Riley Kugel tied it up on a three-point play with 3:30 left.

McKneely stuck a midrange jumper to put the Hoos back in front before Buchanan split a pair from the line, but once again, the Gators knotted it back up at 65-all with 2:13 to go.

The teams traded baskets over the following minute, leading up to Buchanan’s go-ahead free throws with just over a minute showing.

The big man appeared to force a turnover on the ensuing possession, knocking the ball loose and out of bounds. The call on the floor was a turnover and UVA ball, and video review initially upheld the ruling, but ACC Network analyst and former Wahoo Cory Alexander suggested to the officiating crew to look at one of the broadcast replays before moving on. The officials looked at the monitor again, and this time reversed the call and awarded possession to Florida.

Clayton went on to make one of his two free throws, cutting the Virginia lead to 71-70 with 51 ticks left. The Cavaliers coughed up the ball on their ensuing trip, but lucked out on the other end when a wayward Florida entry pass caromed off the rim and into the hands of Buchanan, who was quickly fouled and split his freebies with 12.3 seconds to go, setting up Beekman’s late-game defensive heroics.

Virginia shot 45 percent from the field (26 of 58) and 39 percent from beyond the arc (7 for 18), but struggled from the foul line for a second-straight contest, making just 14 of 24 attempts (58 percent). The Cavaliers were outrebounded by a wide margin, 47-30, but forced 16 Florida turnovers (15 steals and a pair of blocks) and turned them into 11 points on the other end. The UVA bench outscored Florida’s, 26-4.

Aside from Buchanan and Beekman, Groves was the only other Wahoo in double figures with 12 points. McKneely finished with 9 points (2 for 4 from deep) and 6 rebounds, while Andrew Rohde added 7 points and Ryan Dunn and Dante Harris each had 6. Dunn filled the stat sheet with a team-high 8 rebounds and a game-high 7 steals. Leon Bond III played just 4 minutes off the bench and scored 2 points, while Taine Murray and Jordan Minor did not check into the ballgame.

Florida, which shot 40 percent (26 for 65) for the game (7 for 25 from 3-point range) was led by Kugel, who scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half. Will Richard had 16 points (4 for 7 from downtown), while starting big men Micah Handlogten (14 points, 14 rebounds) and Tyrese Samuel (10 points, 11 rebounds) each added a double-double in the losing effort.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • Florida jumped to a 12-4 lead before UVA went on an 11-0 run to gain an 18-14 lead at 11:53 first half
  • Virginia led 39-35 at the half, shooting 50 percent from the field (17 of 34) and 3-point range (4 of 8)
  • Florida’s 12-0 run tied the score at gave the Gators a 55-54 lead
  • Virginia regained a 60-57 lead on an Isaac McKneely 3-pointer at 6:36
  • UVA is 2-0 for the second straight year
  • UVA is 167-50 in non-conference action under Bennett.
  • Virginia is 14-19 all-time in Charlotte
  • The Cavaliers are 4-4 at the former Time Warner Cable Arena and current Spectrum Center.
  • Florida out-rebounded Virginia 47-30 and had 21 offensive rebounds
  • UVA is 159-11 when scoring 70 or more points under Tony Bennett (2-0 in 2023-24)
  • UVA had 15 steals, most since 15 vs. William & Mary on Dec. 5, 2015

Series Notes

• Virginia is 2-2 all-time against Florida in the series that dates to the 1991-92 season

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Blake Buchanan (18), Reece Beekman (13), Jake Groves (12)
  • Buchanan reached double figures for the first time
  • Beekman reached double figures for the 32nd time
  • Groves reached double figures for the first time at UVA
  • Ryan Dunn tied a school record with career-high seven steals


The Hoos return to Charlottesville for a pair of mid-week games at John Paul Jones Arena next week, hosting North Carolina A&T on Tuesday (7 p.m., ACC Network Extra) and Texas Southern on Thursday (7 p.m., ACCN).