Tony Bennett will probably have the Cavaliers shooting some free throws at their next practice.
For the second game in a row, missed free throws nearly resulted in the end of the Virginia men's basketball season. And for the second game in a row, UVA's opponent missed a three-pointer at the buzzer and the Cavaliers survived.
It took overtime and a "hold your breath" game-winning attempt from Tylor Perry that just barely missed, but Virginia held on to defeat No. 2 seed North Texas 71-69 in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament on Sunday evening in Denton, Texas.
This game pitted two of the top ten scoring defenses in the country and the two slowest-paced teams in college basketball and it showed early on. Through the first five and a half minutes of the game, there was a combined total of two made field goals and five points scored between the two teams.
Virginia fell behind 7-1 early and did not record a field goal until more than six minutes in, but the Cavaliers eventually found their footing on offense and put together a 13-2 run over a six minute stretch to build a lead as large as five points. Kihei Clark scored seven of his 11 points in the first half and UVA led 26-24 at halftime.
North Texas tied the game to start the second half on a dunk by Abou Ousmane, who had 16 points for the Mean Green. UVA responded with a lightning fast 10-0 run in less than 90 seconds. Kody Stattmann hit a three-pointer and then Reece Beekman scored the next seven points, as Virginia forced three consecutive turnovers on steals and Beekman turned them into a pair of layups and a three-pointer of his own. Beekman finished with yet another impressive stat line of 13 points on 6/9 shooting, seven rebounds, nine assists, and three steals. Kody Stattmann gave UVA a big lift off the bench with a near double-double, recording nine points and 10 rebounds.
The Mean Green stayed in the game behind strong second half performances from Ousmane and Mardrez McBride, who hit three three-pointers in the second half and led North Texas in scoring with 21 points.
Virginia managed to stay in front thanks to the resurgence of Armaan Franklin, who came into the game having scored just 11 points total in his last three games. After going scoreless in the first half, Franklin caught fire, hitting five three-pointers and scoring 17 points - all after halftime.
The only problem for UVA was that Franklin was suddenly the only Cavalier who could score.
From the 11:13 mark of the second half until midway through the overtime period, Armaan Franklin was the only Virginia player to score a point.
UVA led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but defensive breakdowns, poor defensive rebounding, and shooting woes down the stretch let North Texas back into the game.
Franklin hit a three-pointer to put Virginia up 55-49 with 5:42 left in the second half, but the Cavaliers would not score again in regulation. Ousmane made a hook shot and then Tylor Perry made the most of an offensive rebound by knocking down a three-pointer plus a foul on Kadin Shedrick on the closeout and Shedrick fouled out of the game. Perry converted the free throw to complete the four-point play and tie the game at 55-55 with 2:30 left in regulation.
From there, the elite defenses, nationally ranked No. 7 (Virginia) and No. 1 (North Texas) in scoring defense, stepped up and kept the game scoreless for the remainder of the second half. Tylor Perry attempted a deep fallaway three-pointer at the buzzer that was well-contested by Kihei Clark and fell well short of the rim to send the game to overtime.
Armaan Franklin stayed hot in overtime and hit three-pointers on three consecutive possessions. A baseline jumper from Jayden Gardner and a transition layup from Reece Beekman gave the Cavaliers a 68-61 lead with just over a minute and a half left in overtime.
McBride knocked down his sixth three-pointer of the game to cut it to a four-point game with 41 seconds remaining.
Then, the Wahoos decided they wanted to make the game more interesting. Reece Beekman and Kody Stattmann both had opportunities to put the game away at the free throw line, but they both missed the front end of a one-and-one to leave the door open. Tylor Perry made a driving layup and then Jayden Gardner made two free throws with 13 seconds left. Gardner finished with 17 points on 7/17 shooting from the floor.
Beekman blocked Perry's layup attempt and the rebound went to Stattmann for a moment, but Thomas Bell stripped it from Stattmann and scored a layup plus a foul. Bell completed the three-point play to make it a one-point game with four seconds remaining.
Once again, Virginia failed to convert both free throws as Kihei Clark missed the first and made the second to make it a two-point game. North Texas went for it all, throwing a full-court pass to Tylor Perry above the three-point line. Perry turned and chucked up a three at the buzzer that would have won the game. The ball went off the backboard and bounced off the rim and the Cavaliers escaped with the win.
Virginia played with fire for the second game in a row, but the Cavaliers survived and live to play another game. UVA (21-13) advances to the quarterfinals of the NIT and will host St. Bonaventure on Tuesday at 7pm at John Paul Jones Arena. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
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