Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 9, 2014
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Virginia has a most humbling experience to thank for its sudden basketball resurgence.
The Cavaliers started Wednesday night’s game against Wake Forest with a 22-6 run and never let up in a 74-51 victory, giving them their first 2-0 start in Atlantic Coast Conference play since the 2009-10 season.
To a man, they said their 87-52 loss at Tennessee in their final tuneup helped open their eyes, and will linger as a preventative measure for weeks to come, especially if they ever again seem to think they have winning figured out.
“It’s as simple as just watching the tape against Tennessee,” Joe Harris said. “That really revealed a lot as painful as that loss was. It showed us that we are not as talented as we thought we were coming into the season and that the only way we were going to win is playing our brand of basketball, out-toughing people, being sound on both ends.”
Malcolm Brogdon led Virginia (11-4, 2-0 ACC) with 14 points and Harris and Justin Anderson each added 11.
With ACC play on the horizon, Brogdon said the Tennessee loss also produced a sense of urgency.
“It woke us up. It showed us that we need to get it together, that we need to get it right now,” he said. “Coming into ACC play, I think honestly that was the best thing that could have happened — to be shocked like that right before ACC play.”
The victory at Florida State came despite losing Harris, their All-ACC first team guard from a year ago, to a concussion after he played just 2 minutes, and their victory against the Demon Deacons highlighted the things they have to do to win.
Brogdon scored six points and Akil Mitchell and Anthony Gill four each during the game-opening burst. The Cavaliers forced turnovers on the Demon Deacon’s first three possessions and led 6-0 before Wake Forest had even attempted a shot.
Virginia led 11-0 when Codi Miller-McIntyre scored for Wake with 15:39 left in the half. Arnaud William Adala Moto then followed a 10-second violation by Virginia with another basket inside, and the Cavaliers then resumed their domination, scoring 11 of the next 13 points. A 9-2 burst to end the first half gave them a 41-24 lead at the intermission.
“They started the game in a way that just took the heart right out of us,” Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said.
In the second half, after Wake Forest scored first, Virginia scored 18 of the next 20 points to cinch it early.
Wake Forest (11-4, 1-1), coming off a 73-67 victory against then-No. 19 North Carolina, fell to 1-25 on the road in conference play under Bzdelik, who is in his fourth season, and the coach said he had no real explanation for why.
“Obviously toughness, mental and physical toughness. Competitive spirit. Discipline,” he said, speaking very deliberately. “All those intangibles are truly tested when you’re away from home.”
Coron Williams led Wake Forest with 11 points and Moto had nine.
Wake Forest closed to within 32-22 with 3:16 left in the half, and Virginia closed it with a 9-2 run, getting a 3-pointer from Joe Harris that barely beat the halftime buzzer to take them into halftime ahead 41-24.
After Tyler Cavanaugh’s layup to start the scoring after halftime for Wake Forest, Harris sparked the 18-2 run with a layup, and the Demon Deacons turned it over on three consecutive possessions.