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Wake Forest Basketball: Key Matchup vs. Virginia Cavaliers

The Deacs are up against another tough big man

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Virginia Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest is back in action tonight against the 22nd ranked Virginia Cavaliers, a team the Deacs have not beaten since 2013. The Cavs are currently 5-2 overall and 1-0 in conference play, beating Notre Dame in their last game on December 30th. As is expected with a Tony Bennett coached team, the Cavs are a very good defensive team, giving up just 60.7 points per game (that drops to 54.5 if you take out the 98 points they gave up to powerhouse Gonzaga) on 40.5% field goal shooting. This will likely be a very tough game for the Deacs, so let’s take a look at the key matchup.

Tonight we have a matchup between two similar forwards: Isaiah Mucius and Sam Hauser. Both players are similar sized, athletic forwards who spend most of their time on the perimeter, but also excel taking the ball into the post and scoring in the paint. Hauser, who was selected to the preseason All-ACC team, has scored in double digits in all but one of Virginia’s seven games. He leads the Cavs with over 10 field goal attempts per game, with almost half of those shot attempts coming from beyond the arc. His skill shooting from distance makes him an incredibly tough player to defend, as he is capable of scoring at all 3 levels. His ability to score on drives, post ups, pick and rolls/pops, and just spot up shooting make him one of the most dynamic players in the ACC.

Mucius, on the other hand, shoots from 3-point range much less (37% of his shots) and is shooting just 1-13 on 3-pointers this season. That being said, he was the lone bright spot and the only perimeter player to shoot over 40% for the Deacs in their last game against Georgia Tech; Mucius finished the game shooting 9-16 (56.3%) while every other player on the team shot a combined 13-37 (35%). His ability to create his own shot and elevate over defenders might become extremely important against the tough Virginia defense, especially towards the end of the shot clock. Hopefully his 3-pointers will start to drop more as the season progresses—he should have some open looks tonight due to the nature of the pack line defense.