Arman Franklin leads No. 18 Virginia to season-opening win. | Media Pyro

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia believes it will be a better shooting basketball team this season.

On opening night, it gave everyone else a reason to believe.

Senior guard Arman Franklin scored 21 points, hitting four of Virginia’s 11 3-pointers in the No. 18 Cavaliers’ 73-61 win over North Carolina Central on Monday night at John Paul Jones Arena.

“It’s good to see the shots going down, but we know we want to be more consistent with that,” Franklin said. “Last year we had games where we shot well and games where we didn’t shoot well. So that kind of stability from deep is important for us. “

Senior Francisco Cafaro and juniors Reece Beekman and Kadin Shedrick each scored 10 for Virginia (1-0).

Sophomore guard Justin Wright led the Eagles with 20 points, and junior forward Eric Boone had 18 points, but NCC (0-1) couldn’t get much scoring from anyone else.

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UVA averaged 5 3-pointers last season en route to a 21-14 year and a run to the NIT quarterfinals. It was 6 in the first half on Monday. He did not hit more than 10 in an outing last season.

“I don’t know if we’re the best shooting team out there, but good,” Young coach Tony Bennett said.

It was needed on Monday night.

This year’s Virginia team is expected to be tested with a challenging non-conference schedule, but it wasn’t supposed to start with its first game.

With four top-25 games to come in the first two months of the season, UVA’s season-opener against the Eagles started the way the Cavaliers expected. Franklin’s 3-pointer with 7:08 left in the first half put them up 31-15, and Virginia hit 6 of its eight attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.

However, the Cavaliers only led 38-30 at halftime, the game close to ending the long scoring drought that has plagued them in recent years. UV went 4:26 without a basket as the Eagles went on an 8-0 run to trail 31-23.

Things got tighter after the break, as NCC outscored Virginia 12-5, with former VCU center Brendan Medley-Bacon scoring 15:48 to play. Suddenly, opening night in 2022 brought back Grizzly memories of last season’s first game — a 66-58 loss to Navy.

The Eagles went up 44-43 on Eric Boone’s driving layup, but senior guard Kihei Clark immediately answered with a 3, and Beekman added a fast-break dunk to put the home team ahead 48-44 before going on a 15-2 run.

“Part of me was hoping it wasn’t last year. I think we all realized we had to build that momentum,” Shedrick said. “I’m not sure if last year’s team could have done that at the start of the season.”

From there, Virginia comfortably held off North Carolina Central, winning the season opener for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons.

The deeper and more experienced Cavaliers played nine players Monday night, with Franklin, Beekman, Clark, Shedrick and Jayden Gardner all playing at least 20 minutes. Freshman guard Isaac McNeely and graduate transfer forward Ben Vander Plas each played 23 minutes off the bench.

Franklin had a team-high 35 minutes, finishing 5-for-9 from the field, 4-for-7 from 3-point range and 7-for-8 from the free-throw line.

This offseason, he worked out in Houston with former NBA player and trainer John Lucas and spent a week in Florida training with former UV star Justin Anderson, a 2015 NBA draft pick. But Franklin said his heightened comfort level at Virginia helped fuel his big game.

A year ago, he transferred from Indiana and was working to adjust. at this time?

“More convenient,” he said. “I’m usually more comfortable with my teammates with Charlottesville. More comfortable in coaches. Being more comfortable and confident with myself, it shows.

His colleagues noticed.

“His confidence is five times higher than last year,” Shedrick said. “It’s amazing. He would shoot it in anyone’s face. He confidently opens it and shoots. He shoots with confidence and competition. That’s what we want from Armaan.

They got it on opening night.

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