Virginia leads UNC in ACC Quarterfinals


GREENSBORO, NC — The Virginia men’s basketball team had sealed a 68-59 win over North Carolina in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament Thursday night when Cavaliers center Kadin Shedrick received a lob pass from Armaan Franklin and dunked with both hands.

The Holly Springs, NC native, about 75 miles from here, bent over and screamed with cathartic power after underscoring the triumph that sent the second-placed Cavaliers into Friday’s semifinals against North Carolina State or Clemson at the Greensboro Coliseum.

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Seconds earlier, Shedrick, a reserve player who hadn’t played in the last three games, had blocked North Carolina guard RJ Davis on a drive to trigger a quick break from Virginia, who posted a 66-55 27 seconds from play. Leadership brought and the contributions consistently pointed out an exhausted list.

The Cavaliers (24-6) defeated No. 7 seeded North Carolina for the first time in the ACC tournament despite being without starter Ben Vander Plas. The graduate forward broke his right hand in practice on Wednesday and is out for the season, coach Tony Bennett announced just before the tip.

“It was difficult to find out about Ben,” said Shedrick, who finished with a game high of five blocks and helped limit North Carolina to 35.8 percent shooting. “Nobody expects that to happen and so if you’re just going to be thrown back into the action you need to make sure you’re ready, so I’m here to pick up Ben because I know he’s going through a crisis a lot now. ”

Jayden Gardner had 17 points and 10 rebounds, both team-bests, for Virginia, who shot 58.3 percent from the field in the second half. The fifth-year forward, who grew up in nearby Wake Forest, NC, also went 7-8 on free throws, including 5-6 in the Finals 1:19.

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Virginia made 9-of-10 at the foul line in the final 1:57 to erase any glimmer of a Tar Heels comeback.

Junior guard Reece Beekman had 15 points, five assists, five steals and three rebounds as the Cavaliers won the rubber match of three encounters this season. Franklin chipped in with 14 points. The Cavaliers didn’t fall behind in the second half.

Davis almost single-handedly kept North Carolina (20-13) within reach and had 24 points in 8-for-14 shooting, including 4-for-8 in three-pointers. The junior point guard was the only Tar Heels starter to shoot over 50 percent from the field.

Caleb Love added 11 points but shot 3 for 12 with ACC Defenseman of the Year Beekman tied tight. The Tar Heels’ top scorer this season is averaging 16.7 points but hasn’t fared well against Virginia’s swarming packline.

“Reece did a great job on him, then Kihei [Clark] did,” Bennett said. “But of course our defense is based on individual talent: Kadin’s ability to block, Jayden’s ability to move with his quick feet, and Reece and Kihei and the other guys. But it’s really a defense where you help each other.”

A 10-2 run that started with a layup from fifth-year guard Clark and was capped by a three-pointer from Isaac McKneely gave the Cavaliers their first double-digit lead of the second half at 47-37 with 11: 11 to play. The Tar Heels responded, moving inside moments later 51-47.

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Clark subsequently turned it around and attempted to control a pass against North Carolina’s full-court press, but Virginia stuck on defense and got Franklin’s three-pointer from the right corner. Beekman made 1 of 2 free throws to increase the lead to 55-47 with a 5:47.

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With Vander Plas unavailable, Bennett changed the lineup, adding redshirt senior Francisco Caffaro to the starters. The 7-foot-1 Argentine made his first start of the season after starting 16 games last season, drawing the original duty of guarding North Carolina All-ACC forward Armando Bacot.

It was uncertain if Bacot would be able to play and how effective the highly regarded NBA prospect would be. He left Wednesday night’s second-round win over Boston College with a diseased right ankle.

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But the Tar Heels’ career leader in rebounds and double-doubles moved well early, forcing Bennett to ground Shedrick, a 6-11 redshirt junior, when Caffaro caught a quick foul. Caffaro and Shedrick took turns defending Bacot most of the rest of the way.

Caffaro provided a hearty dose of energy late in the first half with a steal that led to Beekman’s layup for a 16-13 lead, 6:36. Moments later, Caffaro pressed charges against Bacot, much to the dismay of the pro-UNC crowd.

Vander Plas joined his teammates for a warm-up, with a cast protecting his right hand and forearm and wearing a blue Virginia t-shirt. The graduate transfer laughed before the tip with Shedrick and Caffaro near midfield.

Vander Plas’ parents – father Dean and mother Mary – went into the arena to watch their son practice before the game and applauded as he and the rest of the team jogged into the tunnel and back to the dressing room. One or both attended every game at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville that season.

Discussing the news of Vander Plas’ season-ending injury was particularly disheartening for Bennett, who is closely linked to Gander Plas’ father. Bennett and Dean Vander Plas were teammates at Wisconsin Green Bay for three seasons beginning in 1988–89, all under Bennett’s celebrated father, Dick.

“They reacted well,” Bennett said of his team’s handling of the injury. “This is a tight-knit team and you talk about empowering each other. Unity is one of our great pillars.” Virginia leads UNC in ACC Quarterfinals

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