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Big second-half run lifts desperate Wake Forest past Virginia

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Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Wake Forest traveled to Charlottesville desperate for a win. Trailing by seven, with an offense that appeared to be in quicksand, the Deacons went on a 13-0 run that was ultimately the difference in a 63-55 win over Virginia Saturday afternoon in John Paul Jones Arena.

Virginia’s nine-game winning streak against Wake came to a crashing halt, as the Cavaliers suffered their fourth home loss of the season, the most since 2016-17 season. Since that four-loss season, Virginia had recorded three years in which they lost just once in JPJ.

This afternoon, Virginia, at least for the first 20 minutes, reversed a season-long shooting slump from behind the arc. The Cavaliers connected on four three-pointers in seven attempts in the opening half, with three coming in just over three minutes that gave UVA a 22-13 lead.

Virginia did an excellent job defensively on Wake’s Alondes Williams, who entered the game as the ACC’s leading scorer at 20.7 points per game. Williams was held scoreless until the 1:39 remained in the first half.

It was a different story for Williams in the second half, as he scored 12 of his 14 points, eight occurring in the final 5:19. For the first 30 minutes, the Cavaliers frustrated the Wake star, with Reece Beekman and Armaan Franklin teaming to seemingly fluster Williams.

Then, as most scorers tend to do, Williams found a groove, both as a scorer and a passer. Often double-teamed, Williams connected on some long-distance passing to teammates for open-look threes.

But as equally devastating as the rejuvenated Williams was the all-too-common Virginia scoring drought. A nearly seven-minute stretch for UVA turned a 47-40 lead into a 53-47 deficit with4:18 remaining. The Cavaliers would not recover.

Virginia showed glimpses of jumpstarting what at times this season has been a low-octane offense. Franklin displayed what landed him at UVA. The Indiana transfer, who has been mired in a season-long three-point shooting slump, finished with a game-high 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and 3-of-5 from three-point land. Another offensive surprise for the Cavaliers was Kody Stattmann, who provided a huge lift from the bench, scoring 11 points, including two threes.

Unfortunately for Virginia, the second half scoreless stretch was not the only prolonged scoreless period. UVA went nearly six minutes without a point and almost eight minutes without a basket in the first half. Virginia was down five when that drought ended.

Virginia struggled to score from close-in the entire contest, making just 8-of-26 at the rim. Entering the matchup, UVA was shooting over 59.1 percent of its shots at the rim. The inability to finish close cost the Cavaliers.

Scoring droughts overshadow good D. Virginia played excellent on both ends of the floor at times this afternoon. However, the scoreless stretches and Wake’s balanced scoring effort were too much to overcome.

Tony came close to a T. In the second half of action, after Reece Beekman stole the ball from Wake’s Carter Whitt and raced to the basket for a fast-break bucket, Beekman was fouled by Whitt and made the hoop, but official Bill Covington ruled the foul occurred on the floor, negating the two points. Virginia coach Tony Bennett was enraged and made the officiating crew know – almost to midcourt he let them know, which resulted in a sideline warning.

Gardner’s slump continues. For the second straight game, Virginia’s leading scorer, Jayden Gardner, struggled to find his rhythm. Gardner was just 3-of-14 from the floor, scoring nine points. Gardner made his first shot of the game, a layup at the 18:20 mark of the first half, but proceeded to misfire on his next five attempts, including three from close-range, in the opening half.

Story by Scott German

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