Virginia wraps up its nonconference schedule with 66-46 win over UAlbany

By Scott Ratcliffe

Kihei Clark pokes the ball away from UAlbany’s Malik Edmead Wednesday. (Photo by Jon Golden)

After recovering from a sloppy start, Virginia polished off its nonconference schedule in style Wednesday night, as the 13th-ranked Cavaliers took care of UAlbany, 66-46, in the final tuneup before ACC competition heats back up this weekend.

UVA (9-2) got a game-high 20 points from senior guard Armaan Franklin, including three 3-pointers, as the Wahoos bridged the first and second halves with a combined 18-0 scoring run that transformed a 24-22 deficit with 5:15 left until halftime into a 40-24 lead at the 17:17 mark of the second half.

Jayden Gardner added 16 points (7 for 11 FG) and a game-high 7 rebounds, while fellow super senior Kihei Clark moved into second place on UVA’s all-time assists list with 10, passing former Cavalier player and coach Jeff Jones. Clark added 8 points, 4 rebounds and a pair of steals, as he also became the school’s all-time leader in career games played with 139, passing London Perrantes and Mike Tobey.

The Cavaliers were playing Wednesday without Reece Beekman, who is still dealing with a hamstring injury after playing through it in the recent losses to Houston and Miami. As a result, Tony Bennett went with a different starting lineup — usual starters Clark, Franklin and Gardner joined freshman Isaac McKneely and Ohio grad transfer Ben Vander Plas, both of whom made their first start in a Virginia uniform.

The group looked a bit out of sync at times to start the game and the Great Danes went toe to toe up until the closing minutes of the half, as head coach Dwayne Killings pointed out afterwards.

“I was really proud of our guys for 16 minutes and 20 seconds,” he said. “I thought we executed our gameplan perfectly.”

UAlbany (5-10) used an 8-0 spurt to grab an early 19-15 advantage, its largest lead of the night, at the under-8 media timeout, and then had taken a 24-22 lead on a long Da’kquan Davis 3-pointer with 5:15 left in the first half before the Hoos had seen enough.

Kadin Shedrick scored on an easy two-handed flush on a nice assist from Clark to tie the contest with 4:56 left in the half and spark the game’s decisive run. After Franklin put the Cavaliers ahead on an and-1 on a nifty baseline reverse, Clark made back-to-back, highlight-reel thefts of UAlbany’s Malik Edmead and converted both into layups within 11 seconds of each other to quickly stretch the lead to 31-24 with 1:48 on the clock.

“I have not seen a guy pick someone’s pocket two times in a row, that was impressive,” said Bennett of the steals. “And then I remembered after the game when I said that, I go, ‘I take that back. I saw Muggsy Bogues, I think it was [against] Doc Rivers, no disrespect to Doc… you just don’t see that.”

Bennett, who with his next victory will tie Terry Holland for most wins in UVA history, joked that Clark wanted to go for three in a row, but chuckled, “‘Don’t you dare pick up another foul.’”

Added Killings: “The reason why the kid Clark is one of the best guards in the country and the reason why he’s a winner, and the reason why he’s won the games that he has is he makes two steals that really changed the complexion of the game and gave [the Cavaliers] the momentum that they needed and they never looked back. And I thought that really crushed our spirit because I thought we had a lot of really good energy.”

Gardner scored on another great dish from Clark just before the break, as UVA closed the first half on an 11-0 run to lead by nine, 33-24, going into the locker room. The Hoos picked up right where they left off, starting the second half on a 13-2 run capped off by a Clark triple that pushed the lead to 20, 46-26, out of the under-16 timeout.

Virginia made seven of its first 11 shots out of halftime while the Great Danes misfired on 14 of their first 16 attempts of the second half, including all seven from downtown. The Cavaliers cruised from there, and will now turn their attention to conference play, which resumes this weekend.

Virginia shot 48 percent on the evening (25 for 52), 28 percent from 3-point range (5 for 18) and 55 percent from the free-throw line (11 for 20). The Hoos outrebounded the Great Danes, 38-30, and outscored UAlbany 34-18 in the paint.

Aside from Franklin, Gardner and Clark, Shedrick finished with 8 points, 6 rebounds, a block and a steal in 22 minutes, in his first game off the bench this season. The rest of the Cavaliers combined to shoot 5 for 18 from the field.

Davis led UAlbany with 11 points and 6 rebounds. He was the only Great Dane in double figures, as Franklin and the Cavaliers held the team’s leading scorer, Pitt transfer Gerald Drumgoole Jr., to just 7 points on 2-of-12 shooting (1 of 7 from deep). Albany shot 31 percent for the game (16 of 52), including 22 percent (6 for 27 from 3-point land).

The Great Danes were 8 for 11 from the charity stripe (73 percent), which drew some of the only boos of the night from the John Paul Jones Arena crowd, who would’ve been awarded free bacon had a visiting player missed both of their free-throw attempts in the second half.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • UVA (9-2, 1-1 ACC) improved to 6-1 at home
  • UVA finished nonconference play with an 8-1 mark
  • UVA outscored UAlbany 33-22 in the second half
  • UVA started the second half on a 7-0 run to gain a 40-24 lead
  • UVA led 33-24 at halftime
  • UAlbany went on an 8-0 run to gain an early 19-15 lead
  • UVA forced two shot clock violations
  • UVA won the rebound battle 38-30
  • UVA is 109-2, including a 3-0 mark in 2022-23, when limiting foes to fewer then 50 points during the Tony Bennett era
  • Bennett-coached teams are 134-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 50 points (25-1 in three years at Washington State)

Bennett Wins Watch

  • Tony Bennett (325-119, 14 seasons) needs two wins to pass Terry Holland (326-173, 16 seasons) as the all-time winningest coach at UVA
  • Bennett (394-152) needs six wins to reach 400 career wins

Series Notes

  • Virginia is 2-0 all-time vs. UAlbany (1-0 at JPJ)

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Armaan Franklin (20), Jayden Gardner (16)
  • Franklin recorded his sixth 20-point game at UVA (3rd in 2022-23 and 9th career)
  • Kihei Clark (10 assists) passed Jeff Jones (598 assists from 1979-82) for second on UVA’s all-time assists list with 600
  • Clark (4,605 minutes) passed Georgia Tech’s Mark Price (4,604 from 1983-86) for 10th on the ACC’s Career Minutes Played list
  • Clark played in his school-record 139th game
  • Franklin reached double figures for the 40th time
  • Gardner reached double figures for the 109th time
  • Gardner and Franklin combined for 20 of UVA’s 33 points in the first half
  • Franklin had a career-high two blocked shots
  • Ben Vander Plas and Isaac McKneely made their first career starts at UVA
  • Reece Beekman missed his first career game due to injury

The Cavaliers hit the road to face Georgia Tech on Saturday at Noon on ACC Network.