USA TODAY Sports
In a game characterized by stingy defense and strong free throw shooting in the second half, Wake Forest led wire to wire, leading by as many as 14 points in the second half before the Hoos made it interesting, cutting the lead to one point with less than ten seconds remaining. Still, the Deacs did just enough to hold on by converting 82% from the line in the second half and not panicking on the defensive end.
Defense. Holy cow was the defense ever good tonight. The Deacs held UVA to a paltry 36% shooting for the game, and a 3-11 (27.3%) performance from beyond the arc, with all three of those deep balls falling under desperation circumstances down seven points with under a minute to play. Not only that, but the last two three point makes were immaculately defended by the Deacs. Honestly, they couldn't have defended much better, especially considering freshman big man Mike Tobey skewed Virginia's average upward with a 6-9 shooting performance, and Akil Mitchell shot 5-9. The Deacs also forced 17 turnovers and only committed 13 personal fouls as a team all night.
Veteran leadership. C.J. Harris and Travis McKie had a combined 30 points, and while their shooting percentages were dismal, they were a combined perfect 13-13 from the free throw line, including high pressure makes late in the game during crunch time.
Hello, Moto. The freshman may have only had nine points on a 4-8 shooting performance and a rather dismal 1-5 from the free throw line, but I personally noticed Arnaud William Adala Moto more than I ever have, including hitting some really pretty shots.
We...were in control? Huh? The Deacs, as mentioned above, led basically the entire game, with the exception of literally a single possession early in the first half, wherein the Cavaliers took a one point lead. The next possession, Madison Jones had a beautiful scoop to the hoop that gave Wake Forest the lead back and they never relinquished it again. Sure, we almost blew the lead, but the point is we ACTUALLY HAD A LEAD TO BLOW. This is awesome. The Deacs had good ball control, only turning the ball over 12 times, and also bearing in mind that Devin Thomas (who did pull down eight boards and had three blocks including a key swat late) had a rough night handling the rock, with five turnovers by himself.
Rebounding. Oh my lord, rebounding. The Cavs absolutely dominated the glass, outrebounding the Deacs by 16, including an absolutely inexcusable 16 offensive rebounds. Of course, we beat Duke on the glass rather handily, so we know we're capable of banging down low.
Losing our offensive firepower. We literally did not score a field goal in the last 10:22 of the game. That cannot happen. Of course, we had good looks, and often had really solid fast break opportunities, but they just couldn't finish them and couldn't seem to find that offensive flow they had earlier.
Overpassing. There were many times that the Deacs passed the ball a little bit too much, passing up open looks, literally. Of course, as Coach Bzdelik put it, that's actually a pretty good negative to have, but sometimes it's okay to just take an open shot.
Unquestionably the best win of the Jeff Bzdelik era, this game was a great game, demonstrated a winning attitude, and had flashes of brilliant play. The crowd was close to 10,000 strong, and the energy in the Joel was at times electric, in a decidedly stark contrast to the way things have generally been in recent history. The game against Boston College on Saturday (on my 26th birthday no less!) will be a battle of two struggling but quite possibly resurgent programs, both riding waves of momentum. No pressure fellas, but I'd really like a win on my birthday. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention that Coach Bzdelik showed more personality, good humor, and warmth in the post-game interview on the radio than he has in two and a half years, so credit to Coach on that. Good win. Let's build on it. Go Deacs.