Through the first eight games of the season, East Carolina transfer Jayden Gardner had already made an impact at UVA as he led the Cavaliers in scoring and rebounding.
On Friday night against Pittsburgh, Gardner left a lasting mark on the Virginia basketball program by becoming the latest Cavalier to hit a clutch shot at the last second to win an exhilarating game. Gardner scored five points in the final 10 seconds to erase a four-point deficit as UVA escaped with a 57-56 victory in the ACC opener.
Virginia went on a scoring drought of nearly six minutes down the stretch, which allowed the Panthers to take the lead. A seven point lead turned into a four point deficit and suddenly, the Cavaliers faced nearly insurmountable odds in their ACC opener.
Gardner was able to score on a layup off of an in-bounds pass and was fouled in the process. He converted the free throw to bring Virginia back to within one point with 9.7 seconds remaining.
Pittsburgh then committed a five-second violation as the Cavaliers prevented the Panthers from in-bounding the ball. The Hoos got the ball back with a chance to win the game. Taine Murray’s three was off the mark, but Kadin Shedrick was able to disrupt the rebound and Jayden Gardner collected it on the baseline before stepping back into a fadeaway jumper.
Gardner must have said his prayers as he released the shot. The ball struck the left side of the rim, bounced up and hit the back of the iron, bounced up again and hit the front of the rim, before falling through the net.
The crowd at John Paul Jones Arena went wild as the shot fell and UVA took the lead with 0.9 left on the clock. UVA defended Pitt’s in-bound play well and the Panthers did not get a shot off as the Cavaliers sealed the thrilling victory.
Of course, this occasion of the Hoos making a shot at the last moment to steal a victory is far from a rare occurrence in recent Virginia basketball history.
Just eight months ago, Reece Beekman drained a three at the buzzer to take down Syracuse in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.
In the 2019-2020 season, it seemed like the Cardiac Cavs made an appearance in every other game, as the Hoos had 12 of their ACC games decided by five points or less. Tomas Woldetensae drained a three-pointer with 0.3 left on the clock to lift Virginia over North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Just 11 days later, Kihei Clark hit a clutch pull-up three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining to take down the Hokies in Blacksburg.
In 2018, a No. 1 ranked Virginia team trailed unranked Louisville by four points late in the game. Ty Jerome was fouled shooting a three-pointer with 0.9 on the clock and made the first two free throws before UVA was whistled for a lane violation on the third attempt. The Cardinals turned the ball back over to the Cavaliers in a similar fashion as the Panthers did on Friday night, as Louisville traveled on the in-bounds play. De’Andre Hunter caught the in-bounds pass at the left wing and banked in a three-pointer off the glass to stun the Louisville crowd at the KFC Yum! Center.
In 2016, UVA trailed by seven points against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem with just 20 seconds on the clock. Virginia made a trio of three-pointers in the final 15 seconds, including a bank shot three by Darius Thompson as time expired to give the Hoos the mind-blowing victory over the Demon Deacons.
Finally, we could not help but take it all the way back to February 2014 to another matchup between Virginia and Pittsburgh, when Malcolm Brogdon made a three-pointer from the top of the key with just one tenth of a second remaining on the clock to give the Cavaliers an upset victory over the No. 18 ranked Panthers in Pittsburgh.
On Friday night, Jayden Gardner renewed what appears to be a favorite Virginia basketball tradition of dangerously accelerating the heart rates of UVA fans before winning at the last possible moment.
While it would be better if Virginia won by a wider margin, a win is a win, and the Hoos will take them anyway they can get them.