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Virginia beats Wake Forest 72-71. What just happened? Here are three takeaways:

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Back in December, Virginia mounted an unlikely comeback to beat California 63-62 in overtime. It didn't seem like they'd be able to outdo that game for the ages. But then Virginia overcame a brutal performance in Winston-Salem, putting together a furious comeback to win 72-71 and pick up its first ACC road win.

Virginia Wake Forest
Final PPP 1.11 1.09
Shooting (eFG%) 52.7% 60.5%
Rebounding (oReb%) 17.9% 17.4%
Turnovers (TO%) 13.5% 17.9%
Getting to the line (FT Rate) 30.4 67.4

Here are three takeaways from a wild night:

1. The Virginia comeback was amazing.

Basically, the game was statistically over, but UVA won anyways.

Here's the full play-by-play:

UVA trailed by 10 points with 1:20 to play, after Devin Thomas caught the UVA defense napping to drive to the hoop for a thunderous dunk and converting the and-one. Malcolm Brogdon cut the lead to 64-56 with a step-back jumper, and Wake Forest gave the ball right back to the Hoos, throwing away the in-bounds pass. Anthony Gill put back a quick Perrantes miss, and it was 64-58 with 1:05 left.  WF's Bryant Crawford missed a pair of free-throws, and a Brogdon three made it a one possession game.

UVA elected to foul, but the strategy didn't pay off. Devin Thomas made both free-throws. Anthony Gill converted a quick dunk, and Crawford answered by making both with 45 seconds left, making it 68-63.

Any hopes of a Virginia comeback seemed to disappear when the Hoos turned in 3 consecutive empty possessions. However, Wake was only able to convert 2 points out of it - they missed two free-throws and turned it over again, grabbing a steal from UVA but handing it right back with 21 seconds left. However, the Demon Deacons still led by 7 points.

Here's the ridiculous final 20 seconds:

espn PBP

The bad mojo from some bad late collapses of years past appears to be reversed. This team fights. And it leads to moments like this:


2. Virginia got WORKED for much of the game, especially defensively.

The final 20 seconds notwithstanding, Virginia played its worst game of the season.  Wake Forest is the second-worst team in the ACC, besides Boston College, and they're 1-7 in the conference. In ACC play, they are dead last in defensive efficiency and in front of only BC on the offensive end. Yet, it took a miracle comeback for the Hoos to sneak past them.

The shots certainly weren't falling on offense (the Hoos were 1-13 from behind the arc before making four in the final minute).  But UVA's primary concern should be the defense.

Wake Forest scored 1.09 points per possession despite missing 10 free-throws. And it's not like they shot the lights out from 3, either, finishing 6-17 from behind the arc (after starting 0-8). Two-point defense, where UVA finished in the top 10 in the nation in the past two seasons, has been UVA's bread-and-butter under Tony Bennett. This season, UVA is 10th in the ACC in that stat, allowing their conference foes to make 50% of their 2s. Wake made 65% of shots from inside the arc, to finish with an eFG% of 60.5% - in the past 3 seasons, only in UVA's ACC Tourney loss to UNC last year did an opponent shoot better.

The defensive lapses even led to Coach Bennett's decision to play zone for the first time this year. If Tony goes away from the Packline, it's clear things are going wrong.

Another area where the Hoos have been slipping is on the offensive glass. UVA rebounded only 19% of their own misses against a Wake team that has allowed opponents an OReb% of over 30% this year. That qualifies as the team's worst offensive rebounding effort of the season, in front of only UVA's games against FSU and Syracuse, both of which took place in the last 10 days.

On the bright side, Malcolm Brogdon played a great game, scoring a career high 28 points on 10-18 shooting, and drilling two three-pointers in the final minute to lead the Hoos back. He also led the team with 7 rebounds, grabbed 3 steals, and turned it over just once himself. Marial Shayok had a nice comeback performance as well, scoring 10 points (his most since November) on perfect 4-4 shooting. And Evan Nolte deserves a hat tip for playing 12 solid minutes off the bench and scoring 4 points, including his first field goals since December 5th.

3. UVA's road woes aren't cured.

The Hoos have played 8 games, 4 on the road and 4 at home. Here's a look at how they've done:

The Four Factors: Conference Games

Home Away Difference
Offense: PPP 1.19 1.03 -0.16
eFG% 59.8% 49.7% -10.1%
TO% 16.7% 16.0% -0.7%
OR% 29.0% 24.1% -4.9%
FTR 47.3 31.1 -16.2
Defense: PPP 1.05 1.08 0.03
eFG% 51.6% 55.8% 4.2%
TO% 14.6% 16.6% 2.0%
OR% 23.3% 22.9% -0.4%
FTR 21.4 50.9 29.5

Even with the small sample size giving some caution over drawing sweeping conclusions, it appears the team's issues on the road are actually happening on the offensive side of the ball. UVA's 1.11 PPP against Wake Forest was actually their best offensive efficiency in a road game; they've scored at least 1.15 PPP in all four home games. The team shoots the much ball better at JPJ. They also rebound better, while the drop-off in FT-rate likely has something to do with the fact that they have tended to lead games at home (causing opponents to foul late).

Virginia's defensive stats are generally better at home too, but the difference isn't as stark. However, the contrast is especially jarring considering the team's home schedule as been dramatically more difficult (an average KenPom ranking of 36, compared with 81 in road games).

Obviously, it's not uncommon to play better in home games. Home-court advantage exists. But Virginia was able to minimize those effects when they went 15-3 away from JPJ over the last two conference seasons, and they have to recapture at least some of that magic again to compete at the top of the ACC.