In an NIT thriller the Virginia Cavaliers just held on for the overtime victory over North Texas. The ‘Hoos now advance to the NIT quarterfinals as they’ve found different ways to win close games in this tournament.
Armaan Franklin comes up huge
Despite struggling significantly to hit shots all season long, Armaan Franklin showed up against North Texas with arguably his best performance in a Virginia uniform yet. The Indiana transfer came into the season with high expectations but hasn’t lived up to them offensively. That changed tonight as he finished with 17 points as he made five of his seven deep balls.
Most importantly, Franklin did most of his damage in the second half and overtime. Specifically, he scored all of his 17 points in the last ten minutes of regulation and overtime as he was the only Wahoo to score over an 11:42 stretch of gameplay. His three long balls in overtime built a six point lead for Virginia that was just enough for them to hold on to in the waning minutes.
Franklin has had his issues this season. But if he can stay hot this team’s offensive potential is far higher with him making shots than with him missing them.
‘Hoos hit shots
Franklin wasn’t the only guy who impressed from beyond the arc against the Mean Green. Kihei Clark added a pair of long balls while Reece Beekman and Kody Stattmann each had one of their own. The ‘Hoos finished the game the game a shocking 9-17 from deep as the 31.8% three-point shooting team finished at 52.9% on the game.
Life comes so, so, so much easier to an offense when players can be a threat from the perimeter. Merely forcing defense to extend out to the three point line creates opportunities for more offense with a spaced floor.
While the nine triples were just enough to topple UNT, continued perimeter shooting especially from the back-court could give the ‘Hoos a legitimate shot at winning the NIT. The old cliche about the importance of guard play in tournament competition holds true and if UVA’s guards can continue to produce from outside who knows what will happen.
Virginia just escapes following a bunch of mistakes
If this wasn’t the epitome of the NIT, I’m not sure what was. Despite that fairly comfortable six-point lead that Franklin gave Virginia with 2:50 remaining in overtime, dumb fouls, missed free throws, and silly mistakes kept North Texas in the game and gave the Mean Green a shot to win it at the buzzer.
Both Francisco Caffaro and Kadin Shedrick fouled as a result of a lack of restraint. Shedrick fouled a three-point shooter — and gave UNT a four-point play to draw within one point — with 2:30 left in the second half. A few minutes later, Caffaro earned himself a technical after being called for a shooting foul, giving UNT an opportunity for another four-point possession (the Mean Green made three of its four free throws on that trip).
Then, in the last few minutes, Beekman and Stattmann both missed free throws on the front end of one-and-ones before Kihei Clark missed the first of his two free throws after Virginia hit the double bonus.
Kody Stattmann also had the ball stripped from him under the Wahoo basket and then fouled Thomas Bell as the UNT player converted a three point play and brought North Texas within one point with six seconds left in overtime.
But — after giving UNT far too many opportunities to win the game — one final stop meant that Virginia came out with the win.
A win is a win
With all that said, Virginia had more points than North Texas when the final buzzer sounded and that’s all that matters. The NIT is the NIT and the games likely won’t be pretty. But Franklin’s surprising play and Stattmann’s nine point, 10 rebound performance gave the ‘Hoos just enough extra juice to give UVA the win.
Virginia now advances to the NIT quarterfinals to play unseeded St. Bonaventure at home at JPJ on Tuesday at 7:00 PM after the Bonnies beat number one seed Oklahoma.