On a brisk Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, Virginia men’s basketball eased to a 76-57 victory over Boston College inside a sold-out John Paul Jones Arena. The No. 7 Cavaliers (16-3, 8-2 ACC) took advantage of a balanced scoring attack on their way to a fourth straight victory over the Eagles (10-12, 4-7 ACC).
“We had four guys in double figures… they can’t just zero in or key in on one guy,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “When your attack is balanced, it’s the best kind of basketball.”
Neither team immediately found their footing on the offensive end in this game. Boston College committed three turnovers on its first four possessions, while Virginia failed to convert on either of their first two field goal attempts. However, fans would not have to wait long for the scoring to come in bunches.
The Eagles’ attack was led almost entirely by senior forward and leading scorer Quinten Post, who poured in 14 consecutive points for the visitors on six straight possessions. After forcing graduate student forward Ben Vander Plas to exit with an early foul, Post went to work on graduate student center Francisco Caffaro, drilling triples on back-to-back possessions to cap his torrid personal scoring run.
Despite Post’s exploits, the Cavaliers managed to stay with Boston College by way of several timely buckets. Graduate student guard Kihei Clark converted on a three-point attempt, graduate student forward Jayden Gardner found the bottom of the net on three of his first four shots and junior guard Reece Beekman swished a pair of midrange efforts. Heading into the opening media time-out, Virginia trailed the Eagles 18-17 with 11:38 remaining.
That lead grew to four for Boston College following a trey from junior guard Mason Madsen, but those were the last points the Eagles would find for over four minutes of action. In the meantime, the Cavaliers used a three-pointer from senior guard Armaan Franklin and multiple thunderous jams by freshman guard Ryan Dunn — the latter of which came on an alley-oop from Beekman — to sprint into a 26-21 advantage with 8:08 to play. It was clear the athletic plays by the freshman brough something extra to Virginia on the floor, and the crowd agreed, exploding especially for the second dunk.
“I try to bring energy as much as I can,” Dunn said. “Just being able to go out and play with that type of intensity and passion is a big thing for me.”
After a quick four-point surge from Post and Boston College to cut the deficit to one, Virginia found another gear yet again. Vander Plas cashed in on his first points on a midrange jumper before Franklin was fouled shooting a triple, calmly sinking each of his three shots at the charity stripe. Clark found Gardner for an easy jump shot on the next possession, and before the Eagles knew it, the Cavaliers led by eight.
An eight-point lead is where Virginia’s advantage stood when the horn sounded on the opening period. The Cavaliers held Boston College to only six points in the final 11:35 of the first half, allowing Franklin and company to build up a healthy margin heading into the final 20 minutes.
It was Gardner and Beekman leading the way for Virginia as the second half opened up, with the pair combining to score each of the Cavaliers’ first 11 points of the period. Gardner emphasized his quick start to the half with a vicious putback dunk following a missed layup by Clark, simultaneously sending Virginia into a 50-36 lead and forcing an Eagles timeout.
Bennett attributed much of Gardner’s Saturday success to the graduate student’s work ethic during the Cavaliers’ eight-day layoff.
“I thought he [Gardner] worked hard this week,” Bennett said. “When you have a bye week you have a chance to go to work on your own game… I think that was it.”
The Cavaliers failed to build on their early success any further, entering a scoring drought north of three minutes following Gardner’s dunk. Boston College took advantage of Virginia’s cold spell with five consecutive points, capped off by an and-one layup from graduate student guard Makai Ashton-Langford that brought the game back to within single digits.
But just as the Eagles were gaining momentum, Franklin and the Cavaliers silenced any doubts about where the contest was headed. The senior used a nice feed from Beekman to throw down an uncontested dunk before finding himself all alone on the right wing for a routine triple on the next possession. Dunn and Beekman each added baskets inside the arc to cap a 9-0 scoring run for the hosts, who had taken their lead to 61-45 with 8:37 left in the proceedings.
Virginia did not rest on its laurels this time, and it was primarily freshman guard Isaac McKneely who made sure of that. McKneely tallied eight points on a pair of treys and a jumper in just under four minutes of game time, while another Gardner jumper and Franklin triple in between raised the Cavaliers’ advantage to 76-49 with a tick over three minutes remaining.
Virginia coasted into the final buzzer to seal yet another victory in the ACC. Gardner and Franklin led the way for the Cavaliers with 18 points each, while Beekman and McKneely also reached double figures with 11 and 12 points, respectively. For the Eagles, Post paced all scorers with 24 points. Although he scored only six points, Dunn impacted the game almost as much as the leading scorers. While the upperclassmen on the team were clearly the stars of the show today, the freshman duo of Dunn and McKneely provided invaluable minutes to a Virginia team hitting its stride.
“The momentum is growing,” Gardner said. “Now that we’ve got this one out of the way, we have Syracuse on Monday — so a quick turnaround.”
Virginia’s next conference clash comes Monday against Syracuse. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN.