IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Virginia Slips Past Irish, Falls at BC with North Carolina Up Next

Ken Cross

February 24, 2023 at 1:05 pm.

The shifts in conference leaders across the college basketball world have been monumental. In the ACC, those movements have been just as aggressive across the boards.

No.7 Virginia held off another upset on Saturday with a 57-55 win over Notre Dame just before Virginia Tech stopped Pitt, 79-72. The Cavaliers took a one-game lead on the Panthers and Miami with Saturday’s outcomes.

That lead was short-lived though as Virginia fell at Boston College, 63-48, on Wednesday evening.

That left the Cavaliers once again tied with Miami and Pitt for the ACC lead. The Hurricanes and Panthers both won head-to-head battles with Virginia as Miami would be the ACC Tournament’s No. 1seed if the ‘Canes defeat Florida State tomorrow and Pitt next Saturday.

Cavs point guard Kihei Clark became Virginia’s all-time assist leader win in last Saturday’s win over Notre Dame which was three days after Virginia staved off improving Louisville, 61-58, in the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.

“The coaching staff, all week, was telling us to stay aggressive, get downhill, and just play for others,” said Clark. “I felt like I was just creating shots coming into the paint, so we just continue to do that.”

At the outset of the second half, Clark’s feed to Jayden Gardner broke the record after the Cavaliers had fallen behind Notre Dame, 31-29, over the first two minutes.

Clark recorded his 684th assist to pass former Virginia guard John Crotty, who had a solid NBA career and has been the color analyst on Miami Heat radio broadcasts since 2015.

“We kind of preached the little things in practice and it kind of shows up in the games,” explained Clark. “I feel like we just continue to work on those little things.”

Virginia guards scored 38 of 57 points on Saturday after they scored 39 of 61 vs. the Cardinals on Wednesday evening. The Cavaliers made only 36 percent of their shots on the day and this feels like a picture of a team that will go as far as the guards can carry it.

“We missed a lot of bunnies and some were point blank,” expressed Virginia head coach Tony Bennett. “The quality of looks appeared to be Okay. We made a timely shot here or there.”

 

Eagles Knock Cavaliers Back in Fight for ACC Title

Virginia was close to a pair of upset losses in those two games at Louisville and hosting Notre Dame last week. However, the 63-48 loss to Boston College on Wednesday night has as stymieing of an impact.

The Eagles held the Cavaliers to 32 percent from the floor and BC only gave up four three-point field goals in 21 attempts.

Usually, Virginia amasses defensive numbers that are similar to those, but on Wednesday evening the lack of offense was a reality. For potentially winning the ACC regular season title, the Cavaliers must defeat North Carolina on Saturday and pin Clemson and Louisville with a pair of wins in John Paul Jones Arena next week.

“Defensively, they pressured the ball and just got after us,” said Bennett. “It was just one of those games when you knew you were going to have to work to get open, knock down some tough drives, and just be good.”

Jayden Gardner scored six points in a row as he helped Virginia cut Boston College’s lead back to 44-37 with 9:29 to go. From there BC made 7of-12 field goal attempts as Makai Ashton-Langford led the Eagles with 16, while Jaeden Zachary and Demarr Langford, Jr. posted 12 each.

“There are very few teams that have a big margin for error in the country,” explained Bennett. “Our guys have done a terrific job and put ourselves in a spot, but our margin has been very thin.”

Gardner was 6-of-12 from the field as he led Virginia with 16 points while the Cavaliers were just 19-of-59 on the evening.

 

Cavaliers Facing Important Matchup at Carolina on Saturday

Round Two of this long rivalry between the Cavaliers and Tar Heels commences at 6 p.m. EST in the Dean Dome on Saturday.

An important fact to remember is that Tar Heels big man Armando Bacot went down early in the first two minutes of the 65-58 Cavaliers win on Jan. 10.

North Carolina was able to take a 24-15 lead when Leaky Black hit a triple with 3:55 remaining in the first half. With Bacot and Pete Nance out of the middle, it gave Virginia opportunities to expand offensively as the Cavaliers shot 46.2 percent from the field.

Bacot continues averaging a double-double with 17.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per outing. He shoots 55.8 percent from the floor as well and could be a tough matchup for Virginia.

“He is one of the best in our league and very physical,” Bennett said. “We have a great challenge and another great opportunity.”

Virginia will look to get its offense back in rhythm on Saturday after the loss to Boston College. Ben Vander Plas led the Cavaliers with 17 points in the opening matchup with the Tar Heels, while defensively, the Tar Heels only shot 39.6 percent for the game. 

With the loss, Miami, which defeated Virginia at the beginning of the schedule, has the path to a regular season title as the Hurricanes host Florida State and Pitt on back-to-back Saturdays.