Virginia’s Caffaro displays toughness in loss to NC State

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

If nothing else, seven-footer Francisco Caffaro exhibited to the ACC world on Monday night that he’s not going to take any crap from anyone.

Virginia’s redshirt freshman, listed at 244 pounds and solid as a rock, got into an altercation with NC State junior D.J. Funderburk (6-10, 225), late in the second half. The Cavaliers had been down 42-31 but were in the midst of a comeback and had cut State’s lead to 42-39 with 7:23 to play.

That’s when Funderburk and Caffaro were hit with double technical fouls, which also count as personal fouls, giving Funderburk four. Thirty-five seconds later, Funderburk was whistled again, this time for a disqualifying fifth foul, by official James Breeding.

Breeding, by the way, is the official that called Auburn’s Samir Doughty for a foul against UVA’s Kyle Guy on the three-point shot with 0.6 seconds to play in the NCAA Final Four semifinals last season.

With Funderburk on the bench, the Wolfpack had to play the final 6:48 of the game without a quality big man in the lineup due to Manny Bates’ absence. Bates remained in Raleigh and was under concussion protocol, and grad transfer Pat Andree was out with a foot injury.

Asked after the game what happened on the double technical, media got two different versions from the players involved.

Caffaro’s sounded more legit.

“I have an injury on my thumb and when I was coming down the court, [Funderburk] grabbed my thumb and I said, ‘Don’t grab my thumb again.’ And [Funderburk] said, ‘What you going to do?’ and grabbed my thumb again.

“I just pushed him,” Caffaro said. “I should have not done that. I should have definitely told the ref just to look at it. I just overreacted a little bit.”

Funderburk’s version was a little different.

“Honestly, I don’t know what happened,” the Wolfpack redshirt junior said. “I know [Caffaro] was pushing me in my back or hitting me in my back. I turned around and we had a couple of words exchanged. But they called something before we even started talking to each other. I mean, they’re at home. They’re going to get calls like that.”

Funderburk said that on the next play, he was just playing defense when he was called for his fifth personal.

The Wolfpack played the rest of the way with only six remaining scholarship players, but still pulled out the win.

NC State coach Kevin Keatts was asked about the calls, but he didn’t say much.

“They called it a double foul,” Keatts said, without elaborating.

Keatts was impressed with Caffaro, somewhat of a solid physical specimen that has been compared to former Virginia big man Jack Salt, known for setting bone-jarring screens.

“He’s good,” said Keatts. “We said this — and he should take this as a compliment — in our scout we called him Jack Salt. We thought he brought some of the same stuff to the table as Salt. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s physical, he blitzes out on ball screens.”

After a short pause, Keatts asked media, “What year is that kid?”

A reporter said, “Redshirt freshman.”

Keatts: “Huh?”

Reporter repeated: “Redshirt freshman.”

This time, Keatts heard perfectly, but didn’t like what he heard.

“Gawd,” Keatts said, shaking his head as if he didn’t look forward to facing him three more years. “He’s a good player.”

The two teams are not scheduled to play against one another the rest of the season.

Funderburk finished with 14 points and was State’s leading scorer. Caffaro, affectionately referred to by coaches and teammates as ‘Papi,’ clocked 10 minutes, 29 seconds of playing time in the second half and seemed to give the team a lift on defense. He finished with six points, making both field-goal attempts and 2 of 3 free throws.

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