LAS VEGAS — No matter what the scoreboard read at the end of the game on Friday, the the performance the University of Virginia men’s basketball team will aways be measured in the courage it showed in the midst also experiencing unthinkable grief, just days after three members of the school’s football team were shot and killed on campus.
Down three at halftime, the Cavaliers opened the second half on a 30-5 run as No. 16 Virginia passed its first big test of the season in an 86-79 victory over No. 5 Baylor in the semifinals of the Continental Tire Main Event held at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Friday evening. The game was the first major sporting event for the school since the shooting occurred last Sunday.
The decisive run, which showcased Virginia’s long-range prowess and its trademark suffocating defense, elicited a number of smiles from the players, including from Armaan Franklin, who led the Cavaliers with a career-high 26 points. No one would have blamed those same players if they found it next to impossible to smile, as a number of the basketball players were friends with the men who were killed: D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis Jr., and Devin Chandler. The alleged shooter, a Virginia student and former member of the Cavaliers football team, was arrested without incident on Monday afternoon near Richmond, Virginia.
“Situations like that, they really do put things in perspective,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said after the game. “This isn’t all there is. This isn’t the end. I believe that with all my heart. Something horrible, we just pray somehow, someway, some things can come from it that are positive and good. I know there’s a lot of crushed spirits and brokenhearted people, and we’re praying for those people. But to have that performance — it’s just a game, but if it brought some momentary joy to any of those guys, thank goodness for that.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s games, with all photos taken by Las Vegas-area photographer Arnie Bazemore. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 29 pictures in total.