In what was the first men’s basketball game with fans in 612 days, the Virginia Cavaliers dropped their opener to the Navy Midshipmen 64-58 in a game that was back and forth all night long as Navy proved to be much more of a test than perhaps was expected beforehand.
Navy got out to an early 5-0 lead as the ‘Hoos started the game cold on offense. But, a pair of quick scores from Jayden Gardner got the ‘Hoos comfortable offensively.
Points came quickly for both sides after that as Navy started hitting threes, while Kody Stattmann came off the bench first for the ‘Hoos to hit Virginia’s first three-pointer of the season. Jayden Gardner continued to go to work in the post as he quickly tallied seven points in the first six minutes of play.
With the score tied at 14-14 after the first media timeout, Navy’s Daniel Deaver knocked down a three late in the shot clock to put the Midshipmen on top, 17-14 before Gardner drew a foul on the other end and converted both free throws. Navy’s offense kept humming though, as the ‘Hoos struggled on the defensive boards and gave up too many extra possessions.
Navy led at the 12-minute break 21-16 as Sean Yoder led the Midshipmen in scoring with nine points on 3-3 early shooting from behind the arc. In contrast, the ‘Hoos had attempted just two threes nearly nine minutes into the game.
The next four minute stretch was much of the same as Navy seemingly couldn’t miss from deep as John Carter made three deep balls in 3:32 of play to put his team up 32-27 with 6:44 remaining in the half. The Virginia defense wasn’t particularly bad — a pair of Reece Beekman steals were highlights — but it just couldn’t account for Navy’s hot shooting. Kihei Clark did knock down his first long ball of the season and a pair of free throws to keep the ‘Hoos competitive as they attempted to weather the storm.
Out of the eight minute media timeout, the ‘Hoos went to small ball with Jayden Gardner at the five and Kody Statmann at the four. Gardner kept dominating offensively as he ended the first half with 12 points on 5-7 shooting. Navy didn’t necessarily slow down offensively, but the UVA defense and — in particular — Reece Beekman were all over the passing lanes which created easy opportunities in transition.
Fouls started to become an issue for the Wahoos late in the half as the refs made a few ticky-tacky calls which resulted in Francisco Caffaro ending the half with three fouls while Kadin Shedrick had to sit with two.
At the half, Navy led the ‘Hoos 42-35 as John Carter Jr. led the Midshipmen with 16 points while Sean Yoder put up 11. Only Gardner hit double figures for Virginia in the first twenty minutes. Really, the difference at the half was three point shooting as Navy hit 8-12 from the bonus-sphere while UVA only made two of their eight attempts.
The Virginia defense solidified early in the second half as Beekman and Shedrick blew up Navy’s ball screens time and time again. A steal from Beekman that led to a Shedrick dunk in transition starting the second half scoring, before Clark nailed his second triple of the game to bring the ‘Hoos back within two points, 42-40.
An offensive rebound and layup from Greg Summers gave the Midshipmen life offensively before a triple from Chris Silva a few minutes later put the them back up by six points at the first media timeout of the half.
Beekman slithered through the Navy defense for a layup off a high ball screen out of the timeout, but the Midshipmen quickly countered with a deep ball from P.J .Roach. Two free throws from Kihei Clark, one made attempt at the line from Caffaro after a transition push, a tip in from Gardner off a Stattmann miss, and an eight foot floater from Gardner after a hectic possession got the ‘Hoos back in rhythm offensively as the score sat at 53-51, Navy with 12:02 remaining in regulation.
A big stop on a stellar defensive possession for the ‘Hoos out of the twelve minute timeout gave Virginia life as two Armaan Franklin free throws on the other end tied the score up for the first time since early in the first half.
On UVA’s following offensive possession, Navy switched to a zone which baffled the ‘Hoos momentarily before a tip in from Kadin Shedrick following a pair of offensive boards seemingly forced the Midshipmen back to man-to-man. That would be the last bucket the ‘Hoos would get for 8:31 of gameplay.
The teams traded scoreless possessions for the following few minutes before Navy called a timeout at the 6:11 mark with the score still tied at 55-55. Yoder drove the baseline for a reverse layup at the 5:20 mark put the Midshipmen up by two.
The ‘Hoos continued to struggle to rebound defensively as two offensive boards from Navy resulted in an easy put back for Yoder to make the score 59-55 with 3:42 remaining. An off target triple followed by a Francisco Caffaro miss off a post touch made things difficult for the Cavaliers.
Fortunately, Reece Beekman drove to the hoop off a ball screen and got fouled at the rim. But, two missed free throws took the life out Virginia’s potential comeback. Yet another put back for Navy on the other end made it a six point game with just over two minutes left. A turnover on a paint pass from Gardner to Shedrick followed by an offensive foul by Beekman essentially dashed any chance of a comeback.
Navy and Virginia traded three balls in the final minute before the ‘Hoos had to start fouling. A missed Beekman three in the final ten seconds closed out the game as Navy pulled out the massive 66-58 victory and sent the ‘Hoos back to the drawing board ahead of Friday night’s game against Radford.