Winston-Salem, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - With their sights set on tying the best start in school history and moving one step closer to a second straight ACC title, the second-ranked Virginia Cavaliers take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in a conference clash at the LJVM Coliseum on Wednesday.
Tony Bennett's Cavalier have just one loss on the season and at 25-1 are on the verge of tying the 1981-82 squad for the best start in school history (26-1). Virginia posted its seventh straight victory on Sunday, with a 51-41 win over Florida State to remain atop the conference standings at 12-1 with just four games to play.
Danny Manning's first season in Winston-Salem has been a mixed bad thus far. The team has shown spurts of solid play, but just not enough consistency, resulting in a 12-15 overall record and 4-10 league ledger. Wake has lost two straight games, starting with these same Cavaliers on Feb. 14 (61-60) and including last week's 88-75 loss at Notre Dame.
Wake almost pulled off a huge upset in Charlottesville 11 days ago, but came out on the losing end of the one-point decision. Overall, the Demon Deacons hold a 70-62 edge in the all-time series with the Cavaliers, including 10 straight wins at the LJVM Coliseum.
The Cavaliers are still adjusting to life without one of their key contributors, but the loss of Justin Anderson to a hand injury hasn't cost the team in the win column yet. That goes for Sunday's 10-point win over the Seminoles. Anthony Gill led the charge and just missed a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds. Darion Atkins and Malcolm Brogdon chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Virginia. Point guard London Perrantes collided with Brogdon early in the second half and didn't return to the game. He is currently listed as questionable for this game with a broken nose.
It remains to be seen just how many players Virginia can go without and still win games. The good news is that the Cavaliers are one of the nation's premier defensive squads, ranking first in the country in scoring defense (50.5 ppg), third in field-goal percentage defense (.357) and 10th in rebounding margin (+8.3). Missing Anderson's 13.4 ppg is a heavy blow to Virginia's overall offensive scheme, but Brogdon (13.7 ppg) and Gill (11.3 ppg) remain solid contributors, while players like Mike Tobey (7.5 ppg) and Atkins (7.2 ppg) need to continue stepping up.
The Demon Deacons have played a much better brand of basketball over the last couple of weeks, even if it hasn't shown up in the win column. The team comes into this game averaging 70.9 ppg on .426 shooting and holds a solid +5.4 rebounding margin. Wake has a strong one-two punch in guard Codi Miller- McIntyre and forward Devin Thomas. Miller-McIntyre has the ability to do it all, averaging team-highs of 14.0 points and 4.1 assists per game, while ranking second in rebounding (5.0 rpg). Thomas is one of the top frontcourt performers in the league, averaging a near double-double of 12.9 points and 9.4 rebounds (second in the ACC) per game.
The Demon Deacons trailed Notre Dame by only two points at the half in South Bend, but the Irish came out firing in the second half and distanced themselves from the visitors to earn the win. Thomas had a huge game, although his double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds was in a losing effort. Miller- McIntyre and Darius Leonard added 10 points apiece for Wake, which lost despite out-shooting Notre Dame, .460 to .403 from the field overall.