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No size is no problem for UVa, which is holding its own on the boards with smaller lineup

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — With 4:28 to play at Wake Forest on Saturday, Armaan Franklin put up a shot that bounced up off the rim and hung in the air for a moment. His Virginia teammate, freshman Ryan Dunn, leapt up, grabbed the ball and slammed it down, putting UVa up by 7.

“Offensive rebounds, certain guys, that’s a little more of knack and a feel and a desire,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said.

Dunn’s board was one of 10 offensive rebounds No. 7 Virginia secured against the Demon Deacons in the 76-67 road win, despite Bennett relying again on a smaller lineup. The team’s true big men — Kadin Shedrick and Francisco Caffaro — combined to play just six minutes.

UVa (15-3, 7-2 ACC) started Ben Vander Plas and Jayden Gardner at the post positions, and played the 6-foot-8 Dunn 30 minutes and fellow freshman Isaac McKneely, a guard, 23.

Shedrick started 14 of the team’s first 15 games this season, but against Florida State on Jan. 14, Virginia opened with the smaller lineup — Vander Plas and Gardner joining guards Franklin, Kihei Clark, and Reece Beekman.

That’s the opening group Bennett sent out against Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, as well.

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Ryan Dunn (center) and the Cavaliers have had rebounding success even with a smaller lineup. They’re middle of the pack in the ACC in rebounding margin.

“I think it’s a better offensive team,” Wake coach Steve Forbes said. “It’s a harder team to guard offensively. I like that lineup. … That’s why I was afraid of them offensively. Because you have to guard all five spots.”

The Cavaliers — on a five-game win streak — have averaged 73.7 points per game over those past three outings. But what they gain in spacing, shooting and athleticism, they give up in height. Still, they’ve more than held their own on the glass, being outrebounded by Florida State by just one, 33-32, outrebounding the Hokies 30-27 and outgaining the Demon Deacons on the glass 32-28.

“We know we’re not going to be the tallest people out there,” said Franklin, who had his first career double-double Saturday with 25 points and 10 rebounds. “Just have to be real gritty in there, box out.”

For the season, Virginia ranks ninth in the 15-team ACC in rebounding margin, at plus-0.72. It doesn’t have a player in the top 20 in rebounding in the conference. UVa has remained competitive on the glass because its guards have been heavily involved in rebounding.

Franklin, Beekman and Clark combine to average 10.7 rebounds per game. Dunn, a wing, is averaging 2.9.

“There are a lot of big guys in our league,” Bennett said. “At times, your inside guys are holding others off so the guards have to have the ability to come and help rebound. Our teams that have done well, our guards have always been able to come back and rebound.”

Last year was the first time since 2010-11, Bennett’s second season at UVa, that the Cavaliers were outrebounded over the course of a season. Both of those years saw Virginia miss the NCAA Tournament.

In 2010-11, UVa was outrebounded 33.7-31.4. And last season, by the slimmest of margins, Virginia was outgained on the glass, 31.5-31.3.

Saturday, the Cavaliers host a Boston College team that has struggled on the glass this season, ranking 12th in the league in rebounding margin (minus-1.3 per game) going into their Wednesday night game against Louisville.

But the Eagles (9-11, 3-6) played their first 13 games of the year without 7-foot forward Quinten Post. In the six games he’s played since returning from a foot injury, Post is averaging 14.3 points and 6.4 rebounds and he’s blocked seven shots.

He’s started the last three games, including Saturday’s win at Notre Dame that saw him put up season highs in minutes (30), points (29) and rebounds (14).

Mike Barber (804) 649-6546

@RTD_MikeBarber on Twitter

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