Isaac McKneely, Kihei Clark, Ben Vander Plas, Virginia Cavaliers, ACC Basketball

The Virginia Cavaliers and their defense got back on track Tuesday night, beating #22 ranked NC State, 63-50.


The Virginia Cavaliers struggled defensively last week, barely beating Syracuse and falling in Blacksburg to Virginia Tech, both games in which the pack-line defense was not performing as it should. However, it bounced back in a huge way, holding the ACC’s best offense to just 50 points in the 13-point victory.

Virginia was led by Jayden Gardner, who went for 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting and 6-of-6 from the stripe. Gardner has been on fire his last four games, averaging 18.3 points on 53% shooting in that stretch. Reece Beekman was not far behind, scoring 15 and going 6-of-11 from the field.

For NC State, it was a two-man show, as Terquavion Smith and Casey Morsell combined for 37 of the Wolfpack’s 50 points. Morsell, in his first game in Charlottesville since transferring from UVA, scored his ACC season high of 18 points in the loss, going 4-of-9 from beyond the arc.

The story of the game was not the offense, though. Virginia basketball completely took Jarkel Joiner out of the game, as the senior guard went 2-for-14 from the field and only scored five points compared to his 15.8 season average. Aside from him, Morsell, Smith, and DJ Burns, no other NC State player recorded a point.

Takeaway #1: Kadin Shedrick reemerged

Shedrick did not play a single minute in Virginia’s game against Virginia Tech over the weekend, but Tony Bennett decided to plug in the junior center off the bench when Ben Vander Plas was having defensive trouble with big DJ Burns.

Shedrick shined, forcing Burns into immediate foul trouble and a whopping six turnovers. Shedrick kept the big man out of the paint and did not allow any easy shots down low. He played hard-nosed, tough defense, and did not back down from a matchup in which he was giving up at least 40 pounds. 

Offensively, Shedrick did what he needed to do. He looked a bit out of control on a couple of shots, but he played toward the rim and managed to reach double-digit scoring for the first time since Virginia hosted Syracuse in early January.

Takeaway #2: NC State’s powerful offense hit a wall

The Wolfpack, who average just under 80 points per contest this season, came into the game as the ACC’s highest-scoring team. The talk of the game was what would happen when the league’s best offense clashed with the best defense. Well, it certainly was not a shootout.

NC State turned the ball over a dozen times, particularly when Virginia doubled the post. In addition, the Wolfpack’s high-powered offense shot just 33% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc.

Virginia’s defense played tough and did not allow NC State to get in their spots. Shedrick, Gardner, and Vander Plas protected the paint, while Isaac McKneeley, Armaan Franklin, Kihei Clark, and Beekman hounded NC State’s high-scoring guards and did not let them get up many uncontested shots.

Takeaway #3: Virginia found ways to score inside the arc

This season, the Virginia Cavaliers have struggled offensively when their 3-point shots are not falling. NC State played the bonus sphere well, not allowing the ‘Hoos to get open looks from deep. However, it was Virginia’s inside presence that got the offense to 63 points.

Gardner has looked to really find his mid-range stroke that he was incredibly lethal with a season ago. Whether in the short corner or the elbow, Gardner knocked down shots with ease despite being undersized for his position.

Reece Beekman did a great job attacking the paint as well, using his elite speed and ball control to get to the rim and finish however he can. Beekman looked his best at the beginning of the season when he was getting to the hoop at will, and for the first time since injuring his hamstring, he has been as explosive, if not more.

Next game for the Virginia Cavaliers: Duke (Feb. 11 – 4 p.m.)

Next game for the NC State Wolfpack: @ Boston College (Feb. 11 – Noon)

By Samuel Bass

Writing sports, college basketball, ACC hoops