WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP)Virginia kept sending Wake Forest players to the foul line, dug itself a double-digit hole and even threw in a major mistake to extend the game when victory was fewer than 2 seconds away.
The Cavaliers found a way to win anyway.
Tomas Woldetensae scored a career-high 21 points and Virginia got a final-play stop to beat Wake Forest 65-63 in overtime on Sunday, leaving coach Tony Bennett to praise his team’s late resolve while acknowledging both teams had ”head-scratcher moments.”
”Someone told me … ‘Your team is gritty, they don’t have moxie yet down the stretch,” Bennett said. ”Hopefully we showed some grit and we’re moving that needle a little closer to having some composure down the stretch.”
After rallying from 12 down early in the second half, the Cavaliers (13-6, 5-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) were on the brink of a win in regulation, leading 56-53 with 10.7 seconds left. But after Bennett wanted his team to foul to avoid a tying 3-pointer, Casey Morsell fouled Andrien White with 1.7 seconds left on the shot – and Morsell made all three free throws to send the game into overtime.
It was a deflating moment for the reigning national champions, but they handled their second chance at a closeout stop better after Wake Forest called timeout for a tying shot with 8.2 seconds left.
”I said, `Let’s get a rebound and get out of here,”’ Bennett said.
It didn’t even come to that. The Demon Deacons (9-10, 2-7) generated no open space on their push upcourt, prompting Olivier Sarr to try a desperation contested drive and fail to even get off a shot.
”It was the wrong decision,” Sarr said. ”Obviously time was ticking. That clock doesn’t last forever.”
White scored 21 points to lead the Demon Deacons, who were without leading scorer Brandon Childress due to what coach Danny Manning described only as a foot injury from a recent practice. Additionally, No. 2 scorer Chaundee Brown continued his extended absence with his own lower-leg injury.
”I thought our guys put ourselves in a situation to win the ball game,” Manning said. ”They had some guys make some plays, they had some guys play really really well. Disappointed in the outcome, but definitely happy with the fight our guys displayed this afternoon.”
Virginia: The Cavaliers had lost four of five coming in, including Monday’s loss to North Carolina State in their first home loss to the Wolfpack since 2005. The offense has been a particular problem all year, with the Cavaliers ranked 255th nationally in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency (98.5 points per 100 possessions). Virginia rallied despite making just 9 of 30 shots (30%) in the second half and has yet to score more than 65 points in any game.
Wake Forest: Things were notably tougher for Wake Forest’s offense with Childress (15.2 points) wearing a protective boot on his left leg on the sideline. Meanwhile, Brown (13.3) missed his sixth straight game. The Demon Deacons shot just 6 of 27 (22%) in the second half as the Cavaliers climbed back in it.
WOLDETENSAE’S BIG DAY
Woldetensae’s big shooting day offers some cause for optimism going forward for Virginia.
The junior from Italy made 7 of 14 3-pointers, including the go-ahead 3 with 3:55 left in the extra period. He came in shooting just 32% from behind the arc, though he had made 8 of 21 (38%) in the previous four games.
”It was just showing the extra work I’ve put in the past couple of months,” Woldetensae said. ”I’m happy with it.”’
Wake Forest overcame a 1-for-15 shooting start to lead 35-28 at halftime, then pushed that margin to 40-28. … The Demon Deacons made 11 of 12 free throws before halftime and 21 of 24 for the game, though two misses came in OT. … Mamadi Diakite had 16 points for Virginia. … Isaiah Mucius had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Wake Forest, while Sarr had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Virginia: The Cavaliers host No. 5 Florida State on Tuesday.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons visit Notre Dame on Wednesday.
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