By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — To a game that could not have gone much better for the University of Virginia men’s basketball team, senior guard Maleek Frazier added an exclamation point, dropping in a floater with 45 seconds left for the first points of his college career.
On the Cavaliers’ bench, the coaches exchanged smiles of delight, and junior swingman Justin Anderson jumped up in celebration. The team’s second-leading scorer, Anderson was in street clothes Wednesday night, and so was another injured starter, sophomore point guard London Perrantes.
In a rematch of teams that were separated by a single point Feb. 16 at John Paul Jones Arena, UVa humbled ACC rival Wake Forest 70-34 at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Never have the Demon Deacons (12-16, 4-11) scored fewer points at Joel Coliseum, which opened in August 1989.
“This should be short and sweet,” Wake’s first-year coach, Danny Manning, said at his postgame press conference. “This was a beatdown … That’s about as politically correct a description as I can give you.”
The Cavaliers’ domination was absolute. They shot 50 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Deacons 45-29. They blocked eight shots, came up with eight steals, and defended with considerably more passion than they had at JPJ in their 61-60 victory over Wake.
In that game, freshman forward Dinos Mitoglou hit six 3-pointers against Virginia’s Pack-Line defense, the foundation of head coach Tony Bennett‘s system.
“We felt like we didn’t bring our A-game to that one,” UVa guard Malcolm Brogdon said, “and we had a lot to improve on. So we went to the film room, we went to the court and we really improved and got ready for this game.”
The `Hoos (26-1, 14-1) held the Deacons to 21.8-percent accuracy from the floor in the rematch. Only Mitoglou (10 points) scored in double figures for Wake, and eight of his points came in the final 4:35.
“I know Wake Forest wasn’t quite right,” Bennett said. “I hope we had something to do with it, with our defense. I believe we did. But, boy, it’s so gratifying and rewarding for a coach, and even the players that play a lot, to see those guys who don’t get as many minutes do the job in an important game for us. A very important game.”
With the victory, UVa matched the best 27-game start in school history and clinched one of the top two seeds in the ACC tournament, which starts March 10 at the Greensboro Coliseum. Moreover, the `Hoos ended a 10-game losing streak to Wake at Joel Coliseum, where they hadn’t won since Dec. 30, 2000.
“Very gratifying,” Brogdon said of the victory. “I knew a lot of people thought this would be a really hard game for us to win, thought we wouldn’t win it. But I thought we came together at the right time and executed in the right way.”
Perrantes, who broke his nose and suffered a mild concussion Sunday night against Florida State, hadn’t recovered enough to play against Wake, and Anderson is still sidelined after a Feb. 8 operation to repair the fractured small finger on his shooting hand.
In their places Bennett started Nolte, a 6-8 junior, at small forward and Shayok, a 6-5 freshman, at guard, with Brogdon, a 6-5 redshirt junior, sliding over to the point. Hall, a 6-5 redshirt freshman, took over at point guard when he was in the game.
“I told them before the game, `Don’t be anxious,’ ” Bennett said. “I said, `Just play. You can’t be perfect. Just play. Be thankful for this opportunity.’ We’re looking for, we said, not perfection, but as close to excellence as we can get, and I thought they played pretty free tonight, and it certainly helped when we got a lead.”
Virginia went ahead for good on a 3-pointer by Nolte with 15:48 left in the first half. By halftime the Cavaliers led 36-15 — the 17th time this season they have allowed fewer than 20 points in a half. Their defensive intensity never waned Wednesday night.
“At the end of the game, they’ve got the game in control and they’re still flying around defensively,” Manning said. “They’re still getting deflections, they’re still blocking shots, they’re still getting out on the break. That’s what the No. 2 team in the country does.”
Nolte, who had been stuck in a prolonged shooting slump, put more arc on his outside shots Wednesday night. The change paid dividends, as he knocked down two treys.
He also scored on a strong drive, played his customary heady defense and pulled down a season-high six rebounds.
“I tried to really not think about things, just tried to go in and play,” Nolte said. “Then when I caught the ball, just shoot it, and not try to think about it too much.”
Shayok, in his first start as a Cavalier, contributed seven points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals after receiving some pregame advice from Brogdon.
“I said, `Play with confidence. As nervous as you can be, with all the thoughts that can be running through your head, whatever you do play confident and be aggressive, and I think that everything will work itself out,’ ” Brogdon recalled.
Shayok stayed poised throughout, as did Hall, who was coming off an uneven performance against Florida State. Against Wake, Hall hit 3 of 4 shots from the floor, including his only attempt from beyond the arc, and finished with a career-high nine points. Equally important, he did not turn the ball over.
“It was all a matter of just being able to step up when you’ve got two good starters out,” Hall said. “It is a challenge, definitely, but we got guys on the bench ready to play.”
Bennett said: “We needed that, and that’s where depth comes in.”
Inside, the Cavaliers overwhelmed the Deacons. UVa’s starting post players, 6-8 senior Darion Atkins and 6-8 redshirt junior Anthony Gill, combined for 21 points, and Wilkins, a 6-7 freshman, had a season-high nine rebounds and three blocked shots off the bench.
Bennett called it a “program game” — an opportunity for the Cavaliers to prove, by adhering to their principles, that they could overcome the loss of the two of the ACC’s top players.
“What he meant by that was just going out and doing what we do,” Nolte said. “It starts on the defensive end and just being hard-nosed and really setting our defense, and then offensively being aggressive and being opportunistic and shooting it with confidence.”
Almost from the start, Virginia took Wake’s supporters out of the game. For much of the night Joel Coliseum was quieter than the libraries on the nearby Wake campus, and by the final buzzer most of the fans inside the arena were wearing orange.
It took the Deacons more than 26 minutes to reach the 20-point mark. Bennett’s biggest concerns were Mitoglou, guard Codi Miller-McIntyre and big man Devin Thomas, and UVa rendered them virtually ineffective.
“They’re No. 2 for a reason,” Wake forward Darius Leonard said of the `Hoos.
UP NEXT: The Cavaliers’ home finale is Saturday afternoon. At 4 o’clock, UVa hosts Virginia Tech (10-18, 2-13) at sold-out John Paul Jones Arena.
The `Hoos are 14-1 at home this season.
When the longtime rivals met Jan. 25 at Cassell Coliseum, Virginia rallied for a 50-47 win over the Hokies. The victory was the Cavaliers’ sixth straight in a series they lead 87-53.
Before the game Saturday, players Darion Atkins, Maleek Frazier and Rob Vozenilek, along with student-managers Marcus Conrad, Reid Moseley and Aaron Paul, will be honored in a Senior Day ceremony at JPJ.