Human highlight-reel, Justin Anderson led UVa in scoring for the fourth consecutive game, with 16 big points. Freshman point guard, London Perrantes opened the contest with an outside shot, and finished with a career high, 14 points. Senior, Akil Mitchell had a few slipups, but finished with his first double-double of the season, with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Defensively, the Cavs held FSU to 27 points below its season average, just five days after watching Tennessee score at will. Virginia often forced Florida State into taking difficult shots, and turned the Seminoles over 16 times.
Most impressive of all, the Cavaliers did it without the services of senior captain, Joe Harris. Harris collided with center, Mike Tobey at the 17:34 mark of the first half, and did not return to the game (more on this later).
At the end of the day, the victory gave the Cavaliers their first true road win of the campaign, and moved the Orange and Blue to 1-0 in the ACC for the sixth consecutive season. The 'Hoos will look to open conference play with back-to-back wins, when a resurgent Wake Forest squad invades John Paul Jones Arena on Wednesday night at 7:00. Last year, UVa began ACC action with a dramatic win over North Carolina, but just four days later, the Demon Deacons knocked the Cavaliers back down to earth.
This time around, Wake is coming off of an impressive win over the Tar Heels themselves, in a game where the Black and Gold led for the entire second half. The Deacs enter Wednesday night's contest with a record of 11-3, and 1-0 n the ACC. Wake Forest did pretty much what was expected of them in the out of conference, with notable wins over USC and Richmond. Their three losses came against respectable opponents, Kansas, Tennessee, and Xavier. The Demon Deacons average 75 points per game, while allowing almost 67 per contest. Wake's play has been erratic at times, but the Deacs have one of the better starting fives in the league. Let's take a closer look at what Virginia will be up against on Wednesday night.
The Wake Forest backcourt:
Sophomore, Codi Miller-McIntyre is Wake's starting point guard, and leading scorer, averaging 16.6 points per game. Miller-McIntyre is shooting 48 percent from the floor and has nearly equaled his point total from all of last season. The sophomore, shoots only 29 percent from beyond the arc, but has displayed incredible range at times, and is not afraid to dial long distance. Not surprisingly, Miller-McIntyre is Wake's assist leader, averaging four per game. Miller-McIntyre's biggest strengths are his ability to create off of the dribble, and experience at both guard positions.
Senior, Coron Williams has made an immediate impact in his short time in Winston Salem. Williams graduated from Robert Morris last spring, and transferred to Wake Forest in May with a year of eligibility left. The Midlothian, Va. native is averaging 10.2 points per game, while shooting 43 percent from the floor. Williams does most his damage from beyond the arc, as 68 percent of his attempts from the field have come from the outside. The 6-1, 175 pound guard is shooting a team-high, 42 percent from downtown. Williams is also Wake's best free throw shooter, at 83 percent for the season.
Look for sophomore, Madison Jones to log some big minutes at either guard position. Jones has been in and out of the starting lineup this season, and provides Wake with another reliable ball handler coming out of the backcourt. The 6-1, 160 pounder is a pass-first guard, averaging 3.6 assists per game. Jones is not a threat to score in bunches, averaging just 4.3 points per contest, but has proven to be a productive finisher at the rim.
The Wake Forest frontcourt:
Senior, Travis McKie was the ACC's leading returning scorer and rebounder coming into this season. McKie has started every game of his Wake Forest career, and has been a bright spot for the Deacs during some lean years in Winston Salem. The Richmond native is having a solid season, averaging 10.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. His numbers are slightly down due to the improved supporting cast and his not having to carry the team as much. For the season, McKie is shooting 44 percent from the field, and has the ability to knock down outside shots. The 6-7, 220 pounder is capable of playing either forward position, making McKie a nightmare to plan for.
Sophomore, Tyler Cavanaugh acts a "stretch-four" and is similar to former Duke standout, Ryan Kelly. Cavanaugh averages nine points per game, shooting 41 percent from the field. The 6-9, 230-pound, Cavanaugh is not afraid to dial long distance, as over one third of his attempts from the field are from the outside. Cavanaugh's strength is spreading out the defense and allowing one-on-one opportunities for McKie and Wake's other post players down low. The sophomore does a great job of drawing contact, and gets to the line often.
Wake's top rebounder by a wide margin is 6-9, 245 pound big man, Devin Thomas, who averages nearly a double double (11 points, 9.3 boards). An All-ACC freshman team selection a season ago, Thomas is shooting 52 percent from the floor and makes a living off of second chance points. The sophomore possesses excellent foot work for a guy his size, and like Anderson, Thomas is Wake's energizer bunny that gets his teammates fired up. Thomas brings a type of physicality to the floor that the Cavaliers are hoping to get out of sophomore, Anthony Gill.
Arnuad-William Adala Motto is the Deacs' top frontcourt reserve off of the bench, averaging 15 minutes per contest. The 6-6 sophomore from Cameroon is another high-energy guy, who is coming off of an 11 point performance against North Carolina on Sunday.
The Wake Forest head coach:
It has been tough sledding for Jeff Bzdelik during his time in Winston Salem. Bzdelik took over at Wake Forest after former head coach, Dino Gaudio was questionably fired following back-to-back NCAA tournament berths. The Illinois-Chicago graduate won just eight games and one ACC contest in his inaugural season at Wake, with the lone conference triumph coming against Virginia. The Deacs have gradually improved over the past two seasons, but coach Buzz has yet to post a winning record. Wake Forest has nearly eclipsed last season's win total already, as this year's squad is Bzdelik's best by far. Bzdelik has head coaching experience at the college and pro levels, including stints with the Denver Nuggets, (2002-2004), Air Force (2005-2007), and Colorado (2007-2010).
What we'll be watching:
A healthy Harris?
Harris is dealing with concussion-like symptoms, following his brutal collision on Saturday and is listed as, "day to day." The senior did not practice on Monday and will undergo additional tests by the medical staff prior to Wednesday's contest. The Cavaliers performed exceptionally well in Harris' absence against FSU. The offense was aggressive, yet efficient, and guys were looking to create their own shots. How effective Will Harris be if he is able to go? More importantly, can the Hoos continue to play at a high level with their senior leader on the bench?
UVa has gotten a tremendous lift from its reserves this season, averaging 26.2 bench points per game. Whether it's Anderson, Tobey, or Malcolm Brogdon, the Cavs have several guys capable of providing an offensive spark upon entering the game. On the other side, Wake has a short rotation, with only Jones and Adala Motto seeing meaningful minutes coming off the bench. Virginia should own this category and be able wear down the Deacons on Wednesday night.
What about Nolte?
While sophomore, Evan Nolte didn't light up the stats sheet against FSU, he did come up with one of the plays of the day. When the Seminoles cut Virginia's lead to single digits for the first time since the opening half, Nolte buried a cold-blooded trey from the corner to keep the pressure on FSU. Coincidently, it was the same play that head coach, Tony Bennett called to spring Nolte free against Miami last season. The sophomore logged 12 minutes and scored six points in Virginia's win on Saturday. If Joe Harris cannot go against Wake Forest, the Cavaliers will need somebody who can hit outside shots, and Nolte can fill that void on offense.
Battle in the low post
Virginia did a tremendous job outrebounding a much taller Florida State team on Saturday, collecting an impressive, 17 offensive boards in the process. While Wake Forest is not nearly as big as the Noles, the Deacs have several guys who can fly to the rim to create second chance points. Mitchell is coming off of his best rebounding effort of the season, and he will need to hold his ground against a physical Thomas, who has a knack for outworking opponents on the low block.
Free throw shooting:
After their best outing from the line against Tennessee, the Cavaliers stumbled at the charity stripe against FSU, shooting a dismal, 54 percent. Virginia is ranked 299th out of 347 teams in the nation at free throw shooting percentage, at 64.4 percent for the year. Wake Forest is even worse, as the Deacons are shooting 61.6 percent from the line, good enough for 333rd nationally. The Gold and Black missed 14 free throws on Sunday night against North Carolina, to the tune of 57 percent for the game. Both UVa and Wake could have won a lot easier this past weekend, if they took care of business from the charity stripe. Simply put, the Cavaliers must get it together from the line if hope to close out victories this season.
The bottom line
Saturday's performance at FSU was a relief in many ways, as the win demonstrated that the Cavs could win on the road, and could do it against quality competition. UVa's RPI moved 20 points in the right direction and the Hoos have four top 100 wins under their belt, with an opportunity at another on Wednesday night.
The Cavaliers have a chance to show how much they have matured if they can bring the same effort as Saturday evening against Wake Forest, and avoid a letdown. While Wake is a much-improved squad than year's past, this is a game that UVa should win. Last season, Virginia often followed a big win with a head-scratching loss, and the Cavaliers must hold serve at home if they hope to contend in this league.
UVa has an excellent opportunity to begin league play at 2-0 for the first time since Bennett's first season. A 2-0 start would be extremely beneficial as the Cavaliers will hit the road for the two straight, followed by home games against Florida State, and North Carolina.