No. 18 Virginia set for Monmouth, seeks 2-0 start
Already off to a better start this season, Armaan Franklin and No. 18 Virginia look to keep it rolling on Friday night against visiting Monmouth in Charlottesville, Va.
Making his Cavaliers debut last season after transferring from Indiana, Franklin scored just seven points on 2-of-11 shooting (1 of 7 from 3-point range) in a humbling 66-58 home loss against Navy.
In Monday's season-opening 73-61 victory over North Carolina Central, Franklin notched a game-high 21 points on 5-of-9 shooting -- including 4 of 7 from 3-point distance.
"I'm feeling a lot more comfortable," Franklin said after the game. "I'm more comfortable with my teammates, my coaches and with Charlottesville in general. I feel like I'm just more confident and it shows in all the work I've put in this summer. It's really good for me to feel so much more comfortable this year."
The Cavaliers (1-0) knocked down 11 3-pointers -- more than in any game last season -- and outscored the Eagles 30-17 over the final 14 minutes. Virginia had 16 assists on 20 made field goals and committed just eight turnovers.
Reece Beekman, Kadin Shedrick and Francisco Caffaro joined Franklin in double figures, each with 10 points. Kihei Clark had nine points and five assists and Jayden Gardner grabbed nine rebounds.
"It was a good response when we got a little shaky," head coach Tony Bennett said of briefly falling behind 44-43, Virginia's first deficit since it was 2-0.
"We all just realized we had to lock in at that moment and we couldn't let them continue to build momentum," added Shedrick. "The crowd stayed in it, which we all really appreciated, and we stayed in it, too. We played hard and we were able to pull away, which was really good. I'm not sure if last year's team would've been able to do that early in the season, so that's an area where we've improved."
Monmouth (0-1), coming off a 21-13 season in 2021-22, opened its 13th season under coach King Rice on Wednesday with a loss at Seton Hall. After racing Virginia, the Hawks head to Champaign, Ill., to face another Top 25 opponent at Illinois. The Fighting Illini are a potential tournament opponent next week for Virginia in Las Vegas.
The Hawks lost their top four scorers from last season. Junior forward Myles Foster is the top returning scorer (5.3 points per game) and looked the part of star in the making against the Pirates. He posted career-bests with 18 points (13 in the second half) and 15 rebounds.
Monmouth is also counting on quick contributions from the newcomers.
Freshman 7-foot-1 center Amaan Sandhu is the first player from NBA Academy India to earn a men's Division I hoops scholarship. Freshman forward Jaret Valencia, a Colombia native, also had offers from Houston, Creighton, Kansas State, Rutgers, Mississippi State and Washington State.
"I would say the freshman class is way ahead of schedule," Rice told the Asbury Park Press. "They're just some really talented kids, and it lifts your level of play."
But Monmouth shot only 2 of 20 from 3-point range against Seton Hall.
That doesn't mean an upset is impossible. Monmouth, entering its first season in the Colonial Athletic Association, is seeking its second straight road victory over an Atlantic Coast Conference team. The Hawks won 56-52 at Pittsburgh on Dec. 12, 2021.
Monmouth and Virginia have met only once before, with the Cavaliers cruising to a 73-53 home win on Nov. 19, 2017.
--Field Level Media