I tried putting this off for a while in hopes that something would change in the past 24 hours. Unfortunately, the final score remains the same: Previously winless Wake Forest rallied from 10 points down in the second half to beat Virginia, 76-71. Virginia has now lost five of its past six ACC games and falls to 11-10 overall, 2-5 in the ACC.
The good news is that junior center Assane Sene earned his first career double-double, leading Virginia with 15 points and 13 rebounds. For the first time this season, five Cavaliers had double-figure scoring: Joe Harris had 14, Mustapha Farrakhan had 13, Sammy Zeglinski had 11 coming off the bench, and Bub Evans had 10.
So perhaps for the first time in quite some while, it wasn't the Virginia offense that broke down. It was the defense - a defense that allowed the Demon Deacons to score on 17 of its final 20 possessions. This is the first game this season that the Cavaliers have lost, while shooting 50% or better from the field.
Wake Forest hit seven of 13 three-pointers in the first half, which is consistent with what Virginia opponents have been able to do all season. This, however, doesn't quite worry me as much as it seems to alarm others. The goal of the pack-line defense is to prevent the other team from penetration and scoring the easy buckets.
Not that we were particularly effective on that front, either.
Each of Wake's 17 scoring possessions mentioned above were for at least two points, either by field goal or free throws. Either way, if Virginia's going to make any progress as we head into February, Coach Bennett is going to need to find a way to get this team back focused on defense. Virginia is currently 221st in the country in opponents' field-goal percentage (44.1%) and 298th in opponents' three-point percentage (37.4%).
Virginia also gave up 20 points off of turnovers, mostly in the first half. Against Maryland just two days prior, the Hoos gave up 17 off of turnovers. This has not been an issue all season, as Virginia turns the ball over among the fewest in the country. Prior to the Maryland game, Virginia was ranked 16th in the country in turnovers per game, committing only 11.1 per game.