Winston-Salem, NC - C.J. Harris did not have to say anything, because it was understood the senior captain was going to get the ball and he delivered two clutch free throws with 5.3 seconds as Wake Forest (8-6, 1-1 ACC) defeated Virginia 55-52.
The Cavaliers (11-4, 1-1 ACC) held the Demon Deacons to no field goals following Codi Miller-McIntyre's layup that gave Wake a 46-32 lead with 10:22 remaining in the second half. Harris, who made all eight of his free-throw attempts for the game in the second half, sank six from the charity stripe on his way to a game-high 16 points and to keep the Deacs above water.
"Coach made it known to get me the ball at the end of the game," Harris said. "People trust me to come in and knock down free throws."
Wake Forest outscored UVA 17-10 after trailing by one to take a 29-22 lead into halftime. Harris swished a three-pointer to start the second half, while Arnaud Adala Moto added five of his nine points and Travis McKie chipped in three of his 14 points as the Demon Deacons mounted a 40-26 advantage with 14:29 remaining in regulation.
The Deacs held the Cavs without a field goal from the 18:33 mark until Justin Anderson made a layup with 12:55 to go in the game.
"We've been working really hard on the defensive end," Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "The defense, it's a team effort. This group of players they're really growing together as a group. That's how you defend, and that's how you manufacture good offense."
"It's a team game, and their growth not only on the court, but off the court together as a group of guys who really care about one another. It's showing as we improve, and we are improving. We learned a lot from the Duke game, and they carried it over to tonight."
Wake's biggest takeaway from its 80-62 loss to No. 1 Duke Saturday, Jan 5 was to eliminate mistakes, which clearly appeared to have clearly resonated. The Demon Deacons trimmed its turnovers down from the 19 Duke forced to 12 against Virginia.
The Deacs forced the Cavaliers into turning the ball over 17 times, which is 5.5 more than they average per game. Wake Forest scored 15 points off those blunders.
--- Devin Thomas, who continues to be a force on the boards for a team that struggles on the glass, was two rebounds away from his third straight double-digit rebounding game.
--- Wake shot lights out in the first half (13-25 from the field for 52-percent) before it cooled down after the break (5-19 from the field for 26.3-percent).
--- The Demon Deacons blocked a season-high nine shots, eclipsing its previous high of eight against William & Mary.
Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik
Opening statement: "This is a great, gutty win for our young basketball team. We were very resilient. We really were. We just battled. We defended our tails off from wire to wire, and [it's] just a great win for our basketball team."
"They've been working really hard. I'm really proud of these guys. I'm really happy for them. They deserve this."
On his team's defense: "They [Virginia] were 8-14 against [North] Carolina from the three-point arc. That's shooting like 12-14 from the floor. They're an excellent three-point shooting team."
"It was my decision not to double [down low]. Now, what we were doing is we were allowing them to catch it too deep in the lane, and they were actually catching the ball [and] just stepping in on us right in front of the basket in the first half, so what we did was we just said hey guys, we just talked about how to defend the post better; not allowing them to catch it so deep and we really didn't want to double at all, because I didn't want they're guys to get going, because as you saw down the stretch they made a couple of tough shots."
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett
Opening statement: "I think we were outplayed for the majority of that game, 35 minutes. The effort was okay, but the soundness is what was lacking. We got out of the gates and turned the ball over at an alarming rate."
"Our upperclassmen were out of sync [and] played rushed. That really affected us. They spread us out and did some good things, but we lacked some soundness; whether it was getting lifted on shot fakes or gambling a little bit. I thought offensively we gambled a little bit."