By: Darrell Owens
Headline Photo Credit: Darrell Owens-LMS Network
November 9, 2021, was a national holiday for many college basketball fans as the opening night got underway for most teams in the country including the 2019 National Champs the Virginia Cavaliers. After a crazy two years, we were back to so normalcy in college basketball arenas with fans in the stands cheering on their team. John Paul Jones was one of those arenas. #25 Virginia would start their 2021-22 season off against the Navy Midshipmen. The Cavaliers are coming off an 18-7 overall record and 13-4 ACC record hoping to improve on another successful season. Tuesday night would be a small setback for the Cavaliers to make that happen this season.
25 Virginia was defeated by Navy 66-58 in a shocker. Navy shoot the ball extremely well in the first half that helped the Midshipman pull off the upset. Navy went 8-12 from the three-point line which give Navy a 42-35 lead heading into the half. John Carter Jr. led Navy with 19 points, 16 of those points came in the first half. Sean Yoder chipped in with 15 points for the Midshipmen. Virginia struggled in the game from the three-point line shooting 4-for-16 (25%) And never was able to get themselves truly into this contest. Jayden Gardner leads the way for UVA with 18 points and 10 rebounds & looks to be a force to reckon with for the Cavaliers this season. Kihei Clark, one of 3 members (Kody Stattmann, Francisco Caffaro) who are left from the 2019 National Championship team, had 12 points for the Cavaliers. This was the Cavs first opening night loss in their last 24 opening games & first home-opening loss in 8 games.
Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett had this to say after the contest:
On Reece Beekman:
“I think he’s improved. I played him and Kihei a lot of minutes, of course. He had to do the job defensively. I thought he had a big three. We challenged him at halftime and I thought he got better as it went on, but now he’s a gifted player. He can create for his teammates, he can slash and get to the rim. When he gets a rhythm shot, he’s got to take it, and that’s the same with Kihei, his shot has improved. You’re used to seeing our group last year and it’s a little different. We’re trying to get on the glass and do different things. Reece is going to obviously be an important player for us this year, but he showed moments of some good basketball, he has very quick hands. He’s got an uncanny knack for tipping balls or making some plays that way.”
On attacking the dribble:
“There was a level of patience at times and aggressiveness some turnovers kind of led to that, and I thought we did get away from that. We’re a work in progress that way. I think there was some good and some struggles. I thought we did that for the first part of the second half and then we lost our way a little bit. But Navy’s a good team, they put a lot of pressure on us with our defense and I think maybe they wore us down. It’s always a battle who’s going to outlast who and I think they wore us down and outlasted us in this one.”
On Armaan Franklin’s shooting:
“He’s a guy that shot the ball well in Indiana, and he just had an off shooting night. He got some pretty good looks and just had one of those nights. There’ll be nights he’s going to make them. I tell our guys, when you have an overshot, I don’t care if you miss it, if it’s a good shot, you take it with confidence and then you’re on to the next, and you have to play that way. It’s like putting and chipping golf…at all sudden things can get in your head you miss a couple easy ones and rhythm ones and then you doubt a little bit and got to kind of play through that stuff.”
On physicality of Navy:
“It’s hard to beat a solid team when you turn the ball over 14 times and you give up 10 offensive rebounds. Seven fast break points are the important things when you’re in tight games possession games. We’ve got to become a little tougher physically and a little more gritty, mentally to last longer in these games. That’s part of the growing process.”
Coach Bennett knows his team has the talent, and it may take some time to get this team where he wants it as the season goes along. Coach Bennett & the Cavaliers Will have to get past this game as they take on Radford this Friday at John Paul Jones Arena at 7 pm.