While the temperature was frigid outside the John Paul Jones Arena, the Virginia basketball team seemed mostly lukewarm inside the building for the first 30 minutes against Wake Forest on Sunday night. The defense looked OK, but not sharp. The offense showed flashes, but couldn’t crank up the heat.
All that changed with a seven-minute flurry near the nine-minute mark as the Hoos pulled away to a much-needed 79-62 victory at home that leveled their ACC record at 2-2. The Cavaliers ended a two-game losing streak with the win. Over that key stretch, UVA stitched together a 10-0 run that eventually ballooned to a 21-6 surge that knocked out the Demon Deacons.
”Through the Pitt game, I kept saying ’too loose, too loose, it needs to tighten up,’” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. ”It wasn’t perfectly tight today, but the bolt maybe turned a half a turn. So now we’ve got to turn it a little more and that’s a process that takes a lot of work.”
The critical stretch followed a see-saw battle that saw 7 ties and 14 lead changes and the balance had just tipped back in the Demon Deacons’ favor. Wake’s Bryant Crawford got past Darius Thompson for a runner off the glass, UVA’s Isaiah Wilkins committed a passing turnover, and John Collins took advantage of it with a post-up layup in transition. That tied the game at 46-46.
Moments later, Dinos Mitoglou missed a clean look near the top of the key for Wake and Devon Hall responded with a corner 3-pointer for Virginia. Mitoglou missed again from behind the line on the next trip, which the Hoos answered again with a 3-point play. This time, Jack Salt set a bruising on-ball screen for Thompson, who missed a jumper off of it, but Salt soared in for a thundering two-handed tip-dunk that brought the crowd and team to life. After a pair of Hall free throws, London Perrantes got in on the act with a tough runner that capped the 10-0 part of the surge.
The Salt slam had Wilkins still smiling after the game.
”So I called that dunk,” Wilkins said grinning. ”Before the game, I was talking to Jack and I said you’re going to get a putback dunk because we were talking about one he had last year. Every single time I tell Jack he’s going to get a dunk, he gets a dunk. It’s like magic. [The crowd] went crazy.”
While Salt’s dunk provided the exclamation point of the 21-6 outburst, Hall and Perrantes did the heavy lifting. They combined for 9 points each and a total of 18 points on a combination of drives, 3-pointers, and free throws. Perrantes finished with 24 points, including a 4-of-5 shooting night from 3-point range, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. Hall added 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists; that’s the fifth time in six games he’s landed in double digits and the sixth straight game with at least 5 boards.
Marial Shayok, who started for the first time this season, poured in 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists too. Wilkins and Thompson tallied 7 points each and Salt had 5.
UVA ended up shooting 49.1% overall (26-53) and 47.4% from 3-point range (9 of 19). The Hoos also made 18 of 24 free throws, upping that total late as Wake Forest intentionally played the foul game to try to create a rally. Overall, the final 10 minutes helped the Hoos get the win. They scored 46 points in the first 30 minutes and 33 more in the final 10.
”London, obviously, had a nice game. We needed that,” Bennett said. ”Marial, there were some good things there. I just told the guys play as hard as you can, as smart as you can, and as free as you can. … I thought we made enough plays and were steady enough to come away with the victory.”
After back-to-back games where the opponents scorched the nets from behind the arc, Virginia made some strides defensively as well. Pittsburgh and Florida State combined to make 21 of 36 3-pointers for a sizzling 58.3% clip. The Demon Deacons landed at just 28.6%, making 6 of 21 attempts from downtown. Their overall night produced 40.4% shooting (23-57).
John Collins led the way for the visitors with 16 points and 6 boards, while Crawford posted 15 points and 6 assists. Keyshawn Woods had 12 points and 6 boards, while Mitoglou chipped in 11.
The Cavaliers also cleaned up some of their rebounding issues from the Pitt game where the Panthers won the board battle 42-24 with 12 offensive rebounds. UVA edged Wake on the glass, 37-32, but the Deacs did end up with 13 offensive rebounds. Still, that included 6 team rebounds (out of bounds off of the Hoos) and they produced just 13 second chance points.
Overall, Virginia viewed the home win as a small step in the right direction in a tough league.
”It was a step in the right direction and a win in the ACC is a win in the ACC,” Bennett said. “This year, you take it and you move forward.”
“You want to win every single game, especially after those two losses,” Perrantes said. “Coming back home, we wanted to come out here and play well. We really wanted to come out and play hard, strong and better than we had in the past two games, regardless of the outcome. We felt like we needed to play better all around.”