No. 13 Virginia wins nonconference finale over Albany

No. 13 Virginia wins nonconference finale over Albany

MIKE BARBER Richmond Times-Dispatch

CHARLOTTESVILLE – Armaan Franklin’s defensive ability and effort in practice kept him on the floor. Then his shot helped clinch the win.

Franklin, who had scored in double figures just once in his last seven games and went 0-for-7 in last week’s road loss to Miami, shook off a slow start to score 20 points and lead No. 13 of Virginia in a 66-46 victory over Albany on Wednesday night at John Paul Jones Arena.

“He came back and trained really tough and tough,” said UVa coach Tony Bennett, whose team snapped a two-game losing streak. “And I thought he brought it to the game.”

With junior guard Reece Beekman out as he continues to recover from a hamstring strain, Franklin and forward Jayden Gardner led the Cavaliers’ offense in Virginia’s final nonconference game of the season.

The Cavaliers went 8-1 in those games, their best showing since going 12-1 in non-league games in 2018-19, the year they won the national championship.

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Gardner finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. He scored eight of Virginia’s first 10 points.

Senior guard Kihei Clark narrowly missed a double-double, finishing with eight points and 10 assists. Back-to-back steals by Clark, which he turned into quick layups late in the first half, broke the game open for the Cavaliers (9-2).

“The kid, Clark, is one of the best guards in the country,” Albany coach Dwayne Killings said. “The reason why he’s a winner and the reason why he’s won the games he has, he makes two steals that really changed the color of the game. That gave them the momentum they needed and they never looked back.”

Albany (5-10), led by Da’Kquan Davis’ 11 points off the bench, hung around until UVa closed the first half on a big run, then put the game away early in the second half. The Cavs outscored the Great Danes 25-8 to open the second half.

Virginia had played the same starting lineup in each of the first 10 games – Beekman, Franklin and Kihei in the backfield, Gardner and Kadin Shedrick at forward.

On Wednesday night, with Beekman out, UVa opened with freshman Isaac McKneely in his guard spot and Ben Vander Plas opening the game in place of Shedrick. But Vander Plas picked up two early fouls, putting Shedrick back in a key role.

Shedrick finished with eight points, six rebounds and one blocked shot.

Beekman wasn’t the only one Virginia was missing Wednesday night. Associate coach Jason Williford missed the game due to an illness, a team spokesman said.

Franklin took a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the game but missed, seemingly setting the stage for another rough outing for the former Indiana forward. He missed his first five shots, including seeing a wide open 3 at the rim with 13:22 left in the half.

Overall, Franklin had missed his last 10 shots and hadn’t scored since the final minutes of a loss at Houston on Dec. 17 before getting a contested jumper in the lane for a layup with 12:28 to go. vacation.

“You’re always trying to see one come in,” Franklin said. “I know I had some good looks early on. They just didn’t fall. So just being able to attack more, get closer to the rim, get back to mid-range pull. And just going from there .”

From there, Franklin began. He scored 10 points in the first half, going 3-for-4 from the floor, 3-for-3 at the free throw line and hitting a 3-pointer as the Danes proved a resilient opponent.

Virginia and Albany were neck and neck for most of the first half, until the home team closed the half on an 11-0 run — one that included two steals and quick layups by Clark — to take a 33- 24 in the locker room.

“I told him, ‘I’ve never seen a guy pick somebody’s pocket twice in a row,'” said Bennett, who later recalled his NBA teammate, Muggsy Bogues, doing it. “That was impressive.”

The Cavaliers kept it going after the break, forcing several turnovers, getting a basket from McKneely, a 3-pointer from Franklin and a tough layup from Gardner to push the lead to 40-24 just 2:43 into the second half. .

Clark immediately sank a 3 with 14:50 to go that extended UVa’s lead to 46-26.

Virginia won despite another poor 3-point shooting night, going 5-for-18 from beyond the arc. But Franklin and Gardner’s scoring combined with stingy defense helped the Cavaliers eventually beat Albany.

Bennett was one win shy of tying Terry Holland’s all-time program record of 326 wins.

The Cavaliers close out the calendar year with a New Year’s Eve game at ACC foe Georgia Tech, then play at Pittsburgh on Jan. 4 in their first game of 2023.

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Twitter: @RTD_MikeBarber

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