The Washington Post

For Cavaliers, sharing and caring are the keys to success


charlottes­ville — During the closing minutes of Virginia’s regular season finale, guard Reece Beekman delivered a pass to cutting teammate Armaan Franklin for a basket that produced the 25th assist for the 13th-ranked Cavaliers in a 75-60 rout of visiting Louisville.

Beekman’s 11th and final assist Saturday gave Virginia (23- 6) its most in a game this season and capped another performanc­e that underscore­d the Cavaliers’ elevated attention to ball movement and ball security.

The junior guard did not commit a turnover while playing a team-high 35 minutes, helping to further cement Virginia’s firstplace national ranking in assistto-turnover ratio (1.87) and fewest turnovers per game (8.6) entering the ACC tournament.

The second-seeded Cavaliers, who earned a share of the ACC regular season title with No. 1 seed Miami, overcame a late two-game skid to secure a double bye this week in Greensboro, N.C. They open in the quarterfin­als Thursday night against No. 7 seed North Carolina at Greensboro Coliseum.

“Guys have been pinpointin­g their passes and running good stuff,” said Coach Tony Bennett, who has directed Virginia to six regular season ACC crowns in 10 seasons. “When we can share the ball and have that kind of assist-to-turnover ratio, good things are usually going to happen.”

Crisp passing against the Cardinals led to frequent layups and open jumpers that yielded Virginia’s most efficient shooting performanc­e this season. It made 29 of 50 field goal attempts (58 percent), highlighte­d by Franklin going 5 for 8 and Jayden Garnder 8 for 12.

The Cavaliers committed just seven turnovers against Louisville, their ninth consecutiv­e game in single digits. That stretch includes a regular season road finale Feb. 25 in which Virginia committed only four turnovers, the fewest this season, though it lost to North Carolina.

Virginia finished with singledigi­t turnovers in 13 of 15 games to close the regular season and has had fewer than 11 assists just once in that span, when it ended with nine against nine turnovers in a loss to Boston College on Feb. 22. It was the Cavaliers’ only loss this season outside of Quadrant 1 or 2.

“It’s just trust,” said Kihei Clark, who this season became the program’s all-time leader in assists (705). “We trust each other 100 percent and believe in each other. When guys shoot their shots, you think it’s going in.”

The fifth-year combo guard is second in the ACC in assist-toturnover ratio (2.9) and assists per game (5.7). Clark, voted thirdteam all-acc, has not committed more than three turnovers in any of the past nine games despite leading the Cavaliers in minutes.

Beekman, meanwhile, leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.7) and is third in assists (5.3). The junior, who also was selected third-team all-acc, has not committed more than four turnovers in a game this season and seven times finished with zero.

He has done so averaging the second-most minutes on the team while typically drawing the most demanding defensive assignment­s.

“I feel like we’re really confident coming off the two wins,” said Beekman, who was voted ACC defensive player of the year. “I feel like the second half of the [North] Carolina game was kind of like the start of some new energy and life for the team, so I feel like the ACC championsh­ip definitely helped us a lot.”

Franklin, who leads the Cavaliers in scoring (12.6 points per game), has the fewest turnovers (25) among Virginia’s starting guards.

The senior transfer from Indiana has had 11 games this season without a turnover, including four of the past nine. His two turnovers against the Cardinals were his most since a seasonhigh three Jan. 28 in a victory over Boston College.

Also encouragin­g has been Franklin’s uptick in scoring. He had a streak of 10 games in double figures, the longest of any Cavaliers player this season, and closed by scoring in double digits in six of the final seven, including 16 points against Louisville.

The cleanlines­s with which Virginia is operating has been a byproduct of Bennett moving to a small lineup over the second half of the season. The tallest starter is Ben Vander Plas, who is listed at 6-foot-8 and plays center. Gardner, the other starter in the frontcourt, is 6- 6.

Vander Plas, a graduate transfer from Ohio, is averaging less than one turnover per game. Gardner, Virginia’s second-leading scorer (11.8) and leading rebounder (5.5), averages 1.1.

“I think they’re sharing the ball, and different guys are doing different things,” Bennett said. “We have good balance. Their ability to share the ball and figure out how they’re being guarded and then react to it but play with an ability to score.”

ACC quarterfin­als Virginia vs. North Carolina

Today, 7 p.m., ESPN

 ?? RYAN M. KELLY/GETTY IMAGES ?? Reece Beekman, a third-team all-acc selection, leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.7).
RYAN M. KELLY/GETTY IMAGES Reece Beekman, a third-team all-acc selection, leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.7).

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