Sean Singletary scored 21 points, but the Cavs dropped their sixth straight game.
Lucky No. 13 for Wake Forest proved to be unlucky No. 8 for Virginia.
The Demon Deacons took an early lead and held the visiting Cavaliers at arm’s length the rest of the way to prevail 80-64 on Saturday. It was Wake’s 13th home win of the season and the 8th ACC loss for the Hoos. UVa has dropped six straight games and nine of 10 in 2008.
Saturday’s 16-point defeat featured a better effort from Virginia’s players, but better execution is still an inconsistent sighting.
“I keep telling … anybody that asks me … if you compete, you’re not supposed to get credit for playing hard. Those are givens,” UVa coach Dave Leitao said on the Virginia Sports Network. “As a result of playing hard, you’re supposed to have a by-product of that by playing well. We don’t play well enough for long enough periods of time to give ourselves an opportunity [to win games].”
In what is becoming an increasingly frustrating year for the Cavs (first 1-8 ACC record since 1984-85, longest losing streak since dropping seven straight in 2002-03), even a strategic defensive tactic and a shuffled starting line-up and couldn’t produce a change of fortunes in Winston-Salem.
Defensively, the Cavaliers tried to clog the paint and frequently shifted to a 2-3 zone in an effort to take advantage of a WFU team that has struggled to shoot 3-point shots this season. The Deacons entered the game shooting 30.4% percent from the land of trey, but drained 47.6% of their 3-point attempts against Virginia. Harvey Hale led the trend-breaking afternoon by making 4 of 7 trifectas. He finished with 15 points.
“It’s because we make enough structural errors that allow not only those kinds of errors, but it gives the other players enough confidence to make those shots,” Leitao said of opponents’ success shooting the long ball against UVa this season.
While the improved outside shooting played a key role in the outcome, UVa still managed to trim a nine-point halftime deficit to three points on numerous occasions in the contest. But costly defensive breakdowns – missed rebounds on Wake free throws and failing to contain dribble penetration to mention two instances – once again cost the Cavaliers in ACC play. WFU point guard Ishmael Smith seemed to be at the forefront of every surge-stopping shot down the stretch. He finished with 15 points and 6 assists.
“He was really aggressive. He kept driving the ball. I told him to keep his foot on the accelerator and keep pushing the ball,” Wake coach Dino Gaudio said. “He had a really good basketball game for us – 6 assists, 1 turnover, another good game for him.”
Dave Leitao’s team continues to struggle in 2008.
On the other end, a shuffled starting line-up seemed to be an effort to spark a Virginia offense that continues to struggle. But the maneuver – Jamil Tucker made his first career start and Jeff Jones returned at the two guard – didn’t breathe life into the scoreboard. The two inserted starters combined to shoot 3 of 16 in the game and scored just 10 points.
But Tucker (2 of 10, 6 points, career-high tying 9 rebounds) and Jones (1 of 6, 4 points, 4 rebounds) were not the only Cavaliers who failed to produce offensively. The visitors shot 33.3% from the field (22 of 66), 4 of 19 from 3-point range (21.1%), and 64% from the free throw line (16 of 25). Take out Sean Singletary (7 of 18), Ryan Pettinella (6 of 7), and Jerome Meyinsse (1 of 2) and no other individual broke the 30% barrier in the percentage column.
In the end, Singletary and Pettinella were the only Hoos to crack double figures. Singletary finished with 21 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals. That marks the 44th consecutive game that the Cav point guard has reached double figures; he also scored 20 or more points for the 37th time in his career and the 10th time this season. Pettinella posted his second career double-double with 12 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
“There’s only one result and that’s to score more points than the other team. And when that doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t work,” Leitao said of the shuffled starting group. “We’re giving guys opportunities based on their performance in practice. And that was the decision, based on practice.”