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Virginia’s season ends with a 52-51 loss against St. Bonaventure

A late foul and two free-throws from St. Bonaventure’s Kyle Lofton sealed the deal for the Bonnies and ended the Cavaliers’ run for the NIT title

<p>Despite working their way back into the lead after trailing at halftime, the Cavaliers ultimately fell short against the Bonnies in the closing seconds.</p>

Despite working their way back into the lead after trailing at halftime, the Cavaliers ultimately fell short against the Bonnies in the closing seconds.

After a heart-stopping win over North Texas in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament, Virginia men’s basketball traveled back to Charlottesville for a date with St. Bonaventure in the quarterfinals. The Bonnies (23-9, 12-5 Atlantic 10) – who earned two quality victories over Oklahoma and Colorado in the NIT – faced the Cavaliers (21-14, 11-6 ACC) in the first ever matchup between the two schools. 

Following two low-scoring halves, St. Bonaventure willed their way to victory after having clawed back from a late Virginia push. The Cavaliers’ hopes of extending their season were dashed, with the allure of an appearance at Madison Square Garden now gone. 

A team which features five starting seniors, St. Bonaventure started off the scoring early with two consecutive baskets, yet junior guard Armaan Franklin – whose shooting improved against North Texas – knocked down a three-pointer to cut into the lead. Senior forward Jayden Gardner built off of Franklin’s three with two jumpers of his own before Franklin cashed in yet another three-pointer plus a foul on the Bonnies as both teams headed into a media timeout. 

Carrying an 11-8 lead, Franklin – replaced by senior guard Kody Stattman – fell while defending an opposing shot and gingerly walked back to the sideline. A low-scoring first half saw the Bonnies take a 12-11 lead with 9:32 to play, as Franklin returned to the lineup after the minor injury scare. The Pack-Line defense – occasionally a concern this year – worked against a team unfamiliar with the style of Virginia’s play. 

The Cavaliers turned it over on back-to-back sequences as the score stayed at 13-12 in favor of Virginia with under six minutes to play. St. Bonaventure finally got back on the board with an easy layup by senior forward Osun Osunniyi, who received a charge violation on the following possession after a clever play from sophomore guard Reece Beekman. The Bonnies’ senior guard Kyle Lofton silenced a rowdy John Paul Jones Arena with a layup plus the foul to stretch their advantage to four. 

A classic slugfest with a slow pace, the contest featured both teams shooting less than 20 percent from three-point range at the 3:44 mark, as St. Bonaventure missed all six of its three-point attempts. Gardner answered the Bonnie run with another midrange jumper, yet Stattman conceded a contested layup to give their opponent some breathing room. 

Stattman later provided junior center Francisco Caffaro with a crafty assist to bring the St. Bonaventure lead back down to four. A moving screen would give the ball back to Virginia with 11 seconds to play, with Stattman heaving up a shot in traffic only for it to fall short to end the half.

To open the second frame, Gardner brought the Cavaliers within two until a dunk from Osunniyi, which was subsequently answered by a pass from Clark to sophomore forward Kadin Shedrick for the slam. The catalyst for the Cavaliers throughout the season, Gardner completed yet another midrange jumper to tie the game at 25. Franklin popped off of a screen to convert his third three-pointer of the night, and Virginia took its first lead since the early minutes of play. 

With all of the momentum pointing in the direction of the Cavaliers, Gardner cashed in from his sweet spot in the middle and the Bonnies turned it over after an offensive foul. Shedrick quickly drew a foul from Osunniyi and knocked down both of his free throws, as the Cavaliers turned the tables en route to a five point lead with under 15 minutes to go. 

A transition opportunity from Clark resulted in a turnover and a basket from the Bonnies, yet Shedrick kept the opponent at bay with a putback off of a Gardner miss. The man who seemed to be involved in every play, Shedrick once again hammered home a thunderous dunk to electrify John Paul Jones Arena as the Cavaliers took a 36-31 lead into a media timeout.

Both teams went back and forth for several possessions until a wild reverse layup from the Bonnies’ senior guard Jalen Adaway went home. Senior guard Dominick Welch – after assisting his teammate on the previous bucket – cashed in a massive three-pointer to tie the game at 40 all only seconds after the Adaway layup. Lofton made another basket and capped off a seven-point run which was answered by two free-throws from Clark. 

Adaway – who surged in the second half -–made a long distance three-pointer with only one second left on the shot clock to put St. Bonaventure up by three. A Beekman layup complimented by a Franklin three-pointer once again gave the Cavaliers a two-point lead, as Shedrick corralled a steal with 3:16 to play. 

With 3:01 left and four three-pointers under his belt, Franklin made his fifth of the night and stretched the Virginia lead to five. A foul on St. Bonaventure’s senior guard Jaren Holmes only left the Cavaliers with a three-point cushion, as Beekman was called on a controversial offensive foul – much to the disdain of the fans at John Paul Jones Arena. 

Possessions later, the Bonnies committed an offensive foul of their own and Virginia retained possession. A rebound off of a Holmes miss gave Shedrick the rebound and a foul with 35 seconds to play, with another one given to Gardner as the Bonnies desperately tried for a steal. 

Welch – having jumped awkwardly and nearly double-clutched on his shot – completed a circus three-pointer to trim the Virginia lead to one with 21 seconds left. Clinging to a slim advantage, Gardner missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw and the Bonnies held possession with 17 seconds to play. Lofton made a strong push to the basket only to be fouled with five seconds left, giving St. Bonaventure a sudden one-point lead. Clark’s last push to the basket resulted in a block and the Cavaliers fell 52-51.

A low-scoring game in Charlottesville ended with the bitter taste of defeat for the Cavaliers who were nearing an appearance in the NIT Final Four. St. Bonaventure simply closed the game better than Virginia, as the shooting of Franklin could not carry Virginia to victory despite a late five-point lead. 

With the season officially concluded, Coach Tony Bennett will look towards the fall and the exciting new roster that will step foot in John Paul Jones Arena. With a hectic final game for Virginia and a less-than-ideal conclusion to the season for the Cavaliers, there is reason for optimism heading toward the 2022-23 season.

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