CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP)Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman sparked a 15-2 second-half run, and No. 18 Virginia surged past North Carolina Central 73-61 after blowing a 16-point, first-half lead Monday night.
Armaan Franklin led Virginia with 21 points in the season opener for both teams, and Francisco Caffaro had 10. But, it was the point guards who took charge when a 31-15 lead evaporated into a crowd-silencing 44-43 deficit with just over 14 minutes to play.
Justin Wright scored 20 and Eric Boone 18 for the Eagles, who closed within 38-30 at the half. They used a 12-0 run just after halftime to go ahead on a basket by Boone with 14:18 to play, quieting the stunned crowd at John Paul Jones Arena.
That lasted less than 20 seconds.
Clark hit a 3 from the top of the key, and Beekman followed quickly with a steal and breakaway, bringing the earlier roars back. After Wright scored for the Eagles to make it 48-46, Beekman hit a 3, Clark fed Caffaro for a dunk in traffic and Ben Vander Plas hit another 3.
It was 58-46, and a repeat of a season-opening loss to Navy last season was averted.
Beekman and Kadin Shedrick also scored 10 for the Cavaliers.
NC Central: Wright was selected to the preseason All-MEAC first team after averaging 20.1 points in league games and 13.7 points overall last year. He hit several long-range 3-pointers and enjoyed the big stage while leading the Eagles back from a 31-15 deficit.
Virginia: Coach Tony Bennett seemed inclined to work the reinforcements in quickly. Freshman Isaac McNeely and Vander Plas, an Ohio transfer, were inserted early, each drawing a boisterous greeting from the crowd. Vander Plas was a star of the Bobcats when they beat Virginia 62-58 in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles remain on the road, playing at Appalachian State on Thursday night.
Virginia remains at home for another 9 p.m. start against Monmouth on Friday.
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