fbpx
Skip to main content

Virginia holds off Mississippi State to win NIT first-round game

Sportsnaut
Feb 23, 2022; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett acknowledges one of his players from the bench against the Duke Blue Devils in the second half at John Paul Jones Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jayden Gardner scored 14 of his 16 points in the final 14 minutes as Virginia held off Mississippi State 60-57 in the opening round of the National Invitational Tournament Wednesday night in Charlottesville, Va.

Reece Beekman added 14 points and six assists for the sixth-seeded Cavaliers (20-13), who advanced to a second-round game at home next week against seventh-seeded North Texas (24-6), which won in overtime Tuesday night against Texas State.

Virginia led by nine points in a slow-paced first half, lost the lead but then regained control behind the mid-range shooting of Gardner.

Garrison Brooks made a trio of 3-pointers in the final five minutes as Mississippi State (18-16) made a late run, whittling an eight-point deficit to one at 54-53. But Armaan Franklin answered with a 3-pointer with 1:55 left to keep Virginia in charge at 57-53.

Tolu Smith led the Bulldogs with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Iverson Molinar contributed 13 points and Brooks finished with 13 points and five rebounds.

Mississippi State, which reached the NIT final last year, played amid rumors of the impending departure of seven-year coach Ben Howland, who led the Bulldogs to one NCAA Tournament appearance.

Virginia never trailed in a static first half that saw neither team hit a 3-pointer; the Cavaliers missed five attempts and the Bulldogs failed to connect on three.

Francisco Caffaro had three dunks and a tip-in, Beekman scored eight points and Kihei Clark hit all five of his free throws and had three assists to help Virginia take a 27-19 halftime lead.

But the Bulldogs scored the first seven points of the second half, and a layup by Smith with 15:15 left gave Mississippi State its first lead, 34-32.

However, Gardner scored 10 points in a 12-2 run midway through the half as Virginia regained the lead for good at 46-38.

–Field Level Media