CHARLOTTESVILLE — Sometime around 2 in the morning following the Virginia men's basketball team’s season-opening loss to Navy on Tuesday, a text message popped up on Armaan Franklin’s phone. The Indiana transfer had been feeling ill and turned in a ragged debut, going just 1-for-7 from beyond the 3-point line.
The text was from UVa senior guard and team captain Kihei Clark.
“I got a text from him just telling me to keep my head up,” Franklin said. “He said, if I don’t believe in myself, he’s always going to believe in me.”
Friday night, Franklin gave Clark and everyone else a reason to believe, scoring a game-high 21 points and going 5-for-8 on his 3-point tries as No. 25 Virginia bounced back to beat Radford 73-52, avoiding its first 0-2 start since 1969.
“That’s why shooters shoot,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said.
Franklin didn’t hit his first 3 against Navy until there were just 14 seconds left in the game. He didn’t wait nearly as long to see one go down Friday night against the Highlanders. He scored Virginia’s first points on a 3-pointer 1:11 into the contest.
“I felt like I took that Navy loss really hard,” Franklin said. “I felt like I didn’t do my job to the best of my ability. And when I don’t do that, I feel like I’m letting people down.”
Radford’s team calls three consecutive defensive stops a shield and first-year coach Darris Nichols has an assistant hold up a metal shield on the team’s bench to emphasize those moments. His team could have used it on the court Friday as it had no answers for Virginia’s two new additions, Franklin and forward Jayden Gardner.
Gardener, an East Carolina transfer, had his second straight strong game for his new club, scoring 18 and grabbing seven rebounds as Virginia (1-1) improved to 7-0 all-time against Radford (1-1).
Virginia also got 10 points and five rebounds from forward Kadin Shedrick, who scored all of his points at the free-throw line. Clark and fellow guard Reece Beekman added seven points each, as the Cavaliers’ starting lineup accounted for all but 10 of their points.
Nichols said he recruited Franklin last season, when he was working as an assistant at Florida.
“We all knew what he could do,” Nichols said. “You don’t want to define anybody by one game. We saw what he was doing at Indiana. We knew he was capable of having a big game.”
UVa, which held five opponents under 50 points last season, nearly did it for the first time this year. It led 70-47 with under two minutes to play, but a 3-pointer by Artese Stapleton and a stick-back by Josh Walker ended that bid.
Guard Bryan Hart led Radford with 12 points and forward Shaquan Jules added 10.
Unlike three days earlier, when the defense needed a whole half to settle in and play up to Virginia’s standard against Navy, the Cavaliers came out connected from the opening tip. They forced 10 first-half turnovers and held the Highlanders to 39.1% shooting from the floor.
Virginia used a 15-0 run to build a 23-10 lead with 9:12 left in the half. The spurt was fueled by the defense which, at one point during the run, forced seven turnovers in eight minutes.
Virginia built a 41-21 halftime lead, with all but three of those points coming from the starting five.
Nothing changed after the break. Franklin’s fourth 3-pointer of the night put UVa up 58-36 with 9:47 to play. His offensive outburst was a particularly important breakthrough for the Cavaliers, who are counting on Franklin to provide the team with a perimeter scoring threat. He averaged 11.4 points per game last season at Indiana, hitting 42.4% of his 3-point attempts.