LAS VEGAS — No. 16 Virginia (4-0) scored 13 unanswered points late in the second half and held on to defeat No. 19 Illinois (4-1), 70-61, in the championship game of the Continental Tire Main Event Sunday afternoon (Nov. 20) at T-Mobile Arena.
Virginia was led by guard Reece Beekman, who finished with a game-high 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting and was named the event’s Most Valuable Player. Thirteen of Beekman’s 17 points came in the second half, when he also recorded all three of his steals. Jayden Gardner (12 points, 3-5 FG) and Kihei Clark (12 points, 4-9 FG) also scored in double figures for the Cavaliers.
The win marked UVA’s second over a ranked opponent in as many tries. The Cavaliers knocked off No. 5 Baylor, 86-79, in Friday’s semifinals.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Clark opened the game by scoring Virginia’s first seven points. The first half was close throughout as neither team ever led by more than two possessions. The Cavaliers held a 29-28 advantage with under 1:30 to go, but Illinois buried its fourth 3-pointer to grasp a 31-29 lead with 1:00 to play in the opening half. Neither team scored after that. Clark led all scorers at the break with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting and had two steals. The first half saw five lead changes and five ties, and the Cavaliers led for 8:51 of game time, while Illinois led for 6:27.
A dunk by Gardner on Virginia’s first possession of the second half kicked off a 6-0 UVA scoring run that was capped by a Kadin Shedrick (7 points, 6 rebounds) dunk. After flipping the score to open the half, the Cavaliers led for the next 14 minutes of game time until Illinois scored eight straight points on back-to-back 3s and a dunk. That gave the Fighting Illini a 55-53 lead with 4:49 to play. Virginia trailed 58-57 before Beekman came up with a steal and converted an and-1 in transition to give UVA a 60-58 lead at the 3:11 mark. Beekman’s coast-to-coast play sparked the Cavaliers’ 13-0 late second-half run, after which Illinois never recovered.
THE GAME BALL GOES TO:
Reece Beekman. Coming off his second career double-double, Beekman led the Cavaliers to victory with his performance, particularly in the second half of Sunday’s win. Beekman finished with 17 points, including 13 in the second half, to mark his third double-digit scoring outing of the season. For his efforts, Beekman was crowned MVP of the Continental Tire Main Event.
Virginia returns to John Paul Jones Arena on Friday (Nov. 25) to host Maryland Eastern Shore (1-3). Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. on ACC Network.