Following an embarrassing loss to North Carolina, the Virginia Cavaliers bounced back with a nail-biter of a win over the Virginia Tech Hokies, 54-52. With the win, there’s plenty to consider for the Wahoos moving forward.
Francisco Caffaro steps up while other bigs struggle
As the ‘Hoos took control of the glass, Francisco Caffaro was a significant part of that effort as he came up big against the Hokies while his front court mates Jayden Gardner and Kadin Shedrick struggled. Finishing with 16 points and 9 rebounds including 5 on the offensive glass, he was undoubtedly the player of the game.
That was huge considering how Jayden Gardner couldn’t get anything to go for most of the night as he finished with 4 points on 2-10 shooting. Granted, he got beat on a good deal without the benefit of the whistle.
Caffaro was also huge in guarding Keve Aluma as — while the Hokie center scored 22 points — Caffaro made life difficult for the Tech star and held him to 9-20 shooting while straight up stuffing him in a number of possessions. Aluma still got his but Caffaro at least made him work and performed when it mattered most to force an Aluma travel with 14 seconds left that sealed the game for the Wahoos.
Tony Bennett awarded Caffaro’s impressive first half performance by starting him over Shedrick in the second half as the Argentinian outplayed his fellow center by 14 minutes on the night. While Shedrick is the higher potential player in the long term, he’s struggled with foul trouble of late while Caffaro showed why he may be Virginia’s better option on either end.
UVA bounces back and beats Tech on the glass and in the paint
While the ‘Hoos largely struggled agains the Tar Heels on the glass on Saturday, Virginia bounced back against the Hokies tonight. On the game UVA out-rebounded Tech 31-29 and outscored the Hokies 24-20 in the paint while grabbing 9 offensive rebounds.
Part of that was due to Caffaro’s stellar outing along with Bennett’s decision to play Shedrick alongside the Argentinian in order to counter Tech’s lineup with both Aluma and Justyn Mutts.
Armaan Franklin and Reece Beekman impress offensively
Somewhat quietly, Armaan Franklin put up 15 points on 5-11 shooting as he continues to make tough shots from the midrange while still struggling from deep. His five rebounds and three assists to go with zero turnovers made his performance that much more solid.
Additionally, Reece Beekman stepped up in the backcourt with 11 points, five assists, five rebounds, and two steals. He hit a beautiful step-back three along with a jaw-dropping dunk over the outstretched arms of Aluma to emphasize his complete night.
His continued emergence as a scorer has been a welcome sight for Wahoo fans as his contributions as a bucket-getter will continue to be critical for this team.
Defense is stout
After allowing 74 points and 1.21 points per possession against North Carolina, the Wahoo pack-line rebounded against Virginia Tech to hold the Hokies to 52 points on just 0.91 points per possession, The rotations were crisp, the rebounding was solid, and guys made plays to force turnovers and keep Tech on its toes.
In fact, on the night, Virginia Tech only grabbed 6 offensive boards and turned the ball over 12 times while shooting a below-average 7-19 from deep. Sure, some of that was due to the Hokies missing shots. But — back in the friendly confines of John Paul Jones Arena — the ‘Hoos were far sounder.
‘Hoos still on track
With the win over the Hokies, Virginia now sits at 4-2 in the ACC which puts the ‘Hoos squarely in the conversation as a contender for a top-4 finish in the conference with the potential for a run at the regular season title with a late run.
Now at 10-6 and having won three of the last four contests, UVA remains on track in the new year. This was by no means a pretty win. But, a win is a win and Virginia did just enough to come out on top. With that, the Wahoos’ tournament hopes are truly alive.