CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Jayden Gardner scored 26 points and nearly equaled Maryland-Eastern Shore’s total points in the first half of Friday night as No. 5 Virginia beat the Hawks 72-45 in its first home game since three football players were killed in 12 Days ago.
The Cavaliers wore jerseys with “UVA Strong” and player numbers on the front and the players’ last names on the back, as they had done at their Las Vegas tournament. The crowd also observed a minute’s silence before the game.
“The moment of silence we did before the game just tears you apart,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett.
The Cavaliers (5-0) led 40-22 at halftime, with Gardner accounting for 18 of those points and Kadin Shedrick, their other prominent low post player, adding nine. Shedrick finished on 13, with Bennett generously substituted in the final 10 minutes.
“The guys did a really good job of finding him and he did a good job of sealing him and slowing him down,” Bennett said of Gardner, who led Virginia’s 15.3 point last season but came on average only to 7.8. “If he’s aggressive but not rushing, then he’s at his best.”
“We have a lot of capable scorers and we’re just going to keep playing together and we’re playing very selfless basketball at the moment,” Gardner said.
Maryland-Eastern Shore (2-4), of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, actually had a 14-12 run midway through the first half to go 30-18, but Gardner scored 12 of the last 14 points Cavaliers before the break. The Hawks also allowed 24 points in the paint and 14 points fewer than their 10 turnovers in the first half. Virginia was leading 20:4 after 7 1/2 minutes.
“We really struggled to hit the basketball in the first 4 minutes of the game,” said Hawks coach Jason Crafton. “Probably set the tone for them. You know, we just came out flat, didn’t execute.”
Nathaniel Pollard Jr. scored nine and Ahamadou Fofana eight for the Hawks.
Virginia entered the game leading the nation in free throws per game (22.5) and free throw attempts per game (30.5), fifth in 3-point shooting (46.9%), 11th in assists-to-turnover ratio (1.72) and 19th in revenue per game (10.0).
Maryland-Eastern Shore: The Hawks had no answer for Gardner, who led Virginia by 15.3 points last year but came into the game averaging just 7.8 points. He was 9 for 12 in the first half with all of his shots coming from close range and finished 12 of 15.
Virginia: The Cavaliers probably appreciated a breather after hard-fought victories over No. 7 Baylor and No. 16 Illinois as they won the Continental Tire Main Event tournament in Las Vegas earlier in the week and with a game in Michigan on Tuesday night. The performance took them up their new rankings from 16th and marked the first time they have been in the top five since being 4th in the 2021-22 pre-season.
Maryland-Eastern Shore: The Hawks return home Wednesday night to take on Lehigh.
Virginia: plays Tuesday night in Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
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