Wake Forest at Virginia

Wake Forest (11-12, 2-7) at Virginia (18-4, 5-3), 7:30 PM, RSN/ESPN3

Chase Fischer (left) could really thrive shooting three's for Wake Forest in this game.

Wake Forest got its only ACC win last season courtesy of Virginia, but obviously these are both different teams. Still, Virginia’s ACC games have been really close this year (for better or worse) and Wake showed on Saturday that they were still willing – and able – to fight for wins. Virginia has three of its next four games on the road though, including at North Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Tech (hosting Maryland in between). The Cavaliers absolutely have to have this game.

Stat to watch: Runs. This is in honor of Wake Forest head Jeff Bzdelik, who had a memorable quote following his team’s loss at N.C. State on Saturday. From The Ballad of Bzdelik piece that ran in Indyweek.com’s Triangle Offense blog:

“That 12-0 run, the 7-point play was part of it, okay? And our radio people told us if you take away those runs that we outscored them by 19. So, yeah, they had too many runs on us, and as I watch this film on the bus ride home I’ll see that…”

Well, then. In all seriousness, it’s been a big issue for both teams. And Wake had a few runs of its own: a 22-8 first-half run that spanned about nine minutes to take a 29-22 lead and a 17-8 run to turn a nine-point halftime deficit into a 50-50 tie with 13:30 to go. But as Bzdelik pointed out, State had more runs. It was nice to see Wake’s ability to get some quick scoring spurts (they had an 8-0 run in the first half in under two minutes). And Virginia is prone to scoring droughts, so if Wake can get a run or two going, they could make things interesting.

Virginia made its run at Florida State but in narrow wins over Clemson and N.C. State, they allowed big runs at the end that nearly cost them both games. The Cavaliers led Clemson by ten with 6:55 to go before allowing a 12-5 run that brought Clemson within three with 57 seconds left. Virginia led N.C. State by nine with 5:13 to go before the Wolfpack closed on a 13-5 run and had the last shot at the end that could have won it. Clemson and N.C. State combined to shoot just 38.7% in the first part of each of those games and score 96 points combined in the first 68 minutes. But in the final stages (seven minutes for Clemson and five for N.C. State), they combined to shoot 50% (9-of-18) and score 25 points in 12 minutes.Virginia managed just 14 points in the final 12 minutes of those two games on 1-of-9 shooting (12-of-15 from the foul line) compared to 122 points in the first 68 minutes on 55% shooting. The Cavaliers can’t mess around here and need to close this one out strongly.

Most important players: Chase Fischer, Wake Forest and Sammy Zeglinski, Virginia. Just when it looked like Virginia’s senior shooting guard was getting his stroke back, Sammy Zeglinski went cold again. He had made 6-of-9 three’s in a two-game stretch (Boston College and NC State), but against Clemson and FSU he has shot just 4-of-15 (2-of-12 from three). Without the BC and N.C. State games, Zeglinski has shot 6-of-36 (16.7%) from three in ACC play. That’s not enough – Virginia needs more from him.

At some point, teams are going to make three’s against Virginia, and it’s already starting to happen. In four of the last five games, the Cavaliers have allowed 35% shooting or better from three and in the last two, opponents have shot 13-of-33 from three (39.4%). In their previous six ACC games, teams had shot just 25-of-100 (25%) from three. Fischer is capable of knocking a few three’s in, and he’s hit at least one three in all but one ACC game so far. Coming off of a 3-of-6 performance from deep at N.C. State, Wake could really use a hot-shooting night from Fischer.

Random stat: Wake Forest has hardly been a juggernaut in the each of the last four seasons (although they’ve had some good teams in that span). But the Deacons have still won six in a row against Virginia and lead the all-time series 69-59. They also have won two of three meetings at the new John Paul Jones Arena. Virginia’s last win in the series came at home in 2007 when J.R. Reynolds set a John Paul Jones Arena record with 40 points.

Prediction: Virginia 65, Wake Forest 55


Last week: 10-2

Season: 100-34 (36-15 ACC)

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