On Thursday night, the #13 ranked Virginia Cavaliers took care of business in Greensboro against the North Carolina Tar Heels, advancing to the ACC Tournament semifinals with a 68-59 win. UVA’s semifinal appearance marks the seventh time in their past nine trips that the Cavaliers have advanced to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament.
Prior to the game, Virginia announced that Ben Vander Plas broke his hand in practice on Wednesday and unfortunately will miss the remainder of the season, including the NCAA Tournament. Prior to his injury, Vander Plas had played in all 29 of UVA’s games, starting in 15 of them and averaging 7.4 points per game. On Thursday night against UNC, Francisco Caffaro started in his place.
As for the game, both teams started out really struggling to score on the offensive end of the floor in the first half, but North Carolina was able to take an early 11-7 lead after the first 10 minutes of the game. However, Virginia’s offense eventually started to get going thanks to Reece Beekman. In the first half, Beekman was by far the best player on the floor for either team, finishing with 11 points and 3 assists. He was also dominant on the defensive end of the floor, holding Caleb Love without a single point in the first half. However, despite Beekman’s dominance, the Hoos really struggled to get anything else going offensively. As a team, the Cavaliers shot just 40% from the field and were just 2/11 from the three point line. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels also struggled to score, shooting only 39% from the field. While RJ Davis had a big first half with 12 points and led all scorers, Virginia was able to head into the break with a 25-24 lead over UNC.
In the second half, both teams started out the half much better offensively. Virginia was finally able to get Beekman some help, as Jayden Gardner and Armaan Franklin were able to get going and provide some much needed assistance on the offensive end for the Hoos. Gardner only had 4 points in the first half but scored 6 quick points in the first 5 minutes of the half to help UVA build a seven point lead. Meanwhile, RJ Davis stayed hot for the Tar Heels with a couple of three pointers, but North Carlina struggled defensively to keep UVA out of the paint. As a result, Virginia was able to extend their lead to double figures with 10 minutes left in the game. While UNC was able to cut into the Virginia lead in the next couple of minutes, some key missed free throws by the Tar Heels made it difficult for them to take the lead from Virginia. Nevertheless, Caleb Love hit a couple of timely shots to cut the Virginia lead to just three at 55-52 with under three minutes remaining in the game. While Virginia’s lead would stay at three for another minute, the Tar Heels would never pull any closer. With two minutes left in the game and holding onto a 58-55 lead, Virginia went on a critical 8-0 run, which was capped off by an emphatic Kadin Shedrick dunk with under 30 seconds left. Ultimately, the Shedrick dunk proved to be an exclamation point for Virginia, who would go on to win 68-59.
In the win, Jayden Gardner led the Cavaliers in scoring and rebounding, recording his 4th double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Reece Beekman also had a huge game for the Cavaliers, filling up the stat sheet with 15 points, 5 assists, and 5 steals. Armaan Franklin also scored in double figures for the Hoos, finishing with 14 points. Finally, Kadin Shedrick played a great game off the bench in Vander Plas’ absence, recording 4 points and 5 blocks. As a team, the Hoos shot 49% from the field and made 16 of their 22 free throw attempts.
Meanwhile for the Tar Heels, RJ Davis finished the night as the game’s leading scorer with 24 points on 8/14 shooting. Caleb Love also scored in double figures for UNC with 11 points but was held to just 3/15 shooting from the field. As a team, North Carlina shot just under 36% from the field and made just 8 of their 27 three point attempts.
Next up, the Cavaliers will face off against the Clemson Tigers tonight at 9:30 PM in the ACC Tournament Semifinals. Just a couple of weeks ago, Virginia defeated Clemson 64-57 at John Paul Jones Arena.