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Win streak ends against Deacons

Cavaliers shoot only 20.7 percent, score 15 points during first half; Landesberg gets in foul trouble early

Winston-Salem, N.C. - Some secrets are better kept in the family. After a 69-57 thumping at the hands of Wake Forest in Winston-Salem Saturday afternoon, Virginia coach Tony Bennett said he wished the tape of his father's pack-line defense had been one of them.

While Virginia's new defensive system has been widely acclaimed for guiding the team to its hot start, it was Wake Forest's version of the pack-line that shined the brightest Saturday, putting an end to Virginia's eight-game winning streak.

"I think my dad would probably disown me and claim [Wake Forest coach] Dino [Gaudio] as his son after this game," Bennett joked. "He's Italian, so I guess it wouldn't matter - we're all family."\nThough the final score suggests the Cavaliers (12-5, 3-1 ACC) played a somewhat competitive game, the Demon Deacons (14-4, 4-2 ACC), who led by as much as 24 points in the second half, were never really threatened.

Credit that to Gaudio's defense, which held Virginia to a meager 15 points on 20.7 percent shooting in the first half and 33.8 on the game. Sophomore guard Sylven Landesberg's dribble penetration was the only thing that kept the Cavaliers alive in the game early as they tried to slow down a Wake Forest team that jumped out to a 6-0 lead, scoring quickly and often. But after Landesberg's second foul landed him on the bench with 12:28 left in the first half, any semblance of an effective offensive attack quickly dissipated. Virginia's last field goal of the half came with 8:49 remaining, after which the tenacious Deacon defense buckled down and refused to let any Virginia shot go uncontested.

"It's an effective defense, especially if your shot is a little off and you're bothering it - it's hard to break down," Bennett said. "They do it well with their length ... there just aren't as many holes in it as I saw on our end."

And when Virginia's second best scoring threat and primary post presence, junior forward Mike Scott, followed Landesberg to the sideline with his own second foul with 7:53 left, the Cavaliers' offensive responsibilities fell on juniors guard Mustapha Farrakhan and forward Will Sherrill, who shot a combined 2-9 in the half.

While the jump shots weren't falling for the Cavaliers, senior point guard Ishmael Smith established a rhythm early for Wake, weaving through the lane at will and finding teammates for open shots. Virginia's defense struggled in particular to deny lob passes to senior center Chas McFarland from the top of the key. The 7-footer scored eight points in the first five minutes, using his length to grab entry passes over the outstretched arms of 6-foot-9 senior forward Jerome Meyinsse.

"Your ball pressure has to be really good," Bennett said. "We knew how quick Smith was - I thought we were a little soft on the ball, and when you're soft on the ball defensively, that got us off on the wrong foot ... Regarding their high-low or their action inside - big physical bodies. Sometimes we were riding them too high up the lane with not a lot of ball pressure, and certainly they'd either lob it or he'd get real deep position."

The Demon Deacons finished the half on a 16-1 run that featured Smith layups, a McFarland jumper from the top of the key and a perfect dribble-drive and dish from Smith to freshman guard C.J. Harris for a three-pointer as time expired.

Facing a 19-point deficit heading into the second half, Landesberg knew he and Scott would be Virginia's only options should the team wish to mount a comeback.

"I was telling [Mike], 'In the second half, we've got to come out and have big second halves to be able to stay in the game, just to be able to compete," Landesberg said.

Though he tried to deliver, scoring Virginia's first seven points on the half and 14 of his 18 in the period, Landesberg's offensive efforts did not make up for the defensive lapses that plagued the Cavaliers. Senior guard L.D. Williams slipped behind Landesberg for a layup on Wake's first possession of the half - a play that became too much of a trend for Virginia to handle.

"There were moments we played good defense - there were not too many of those moments," Landesberg said. "They scored a lot, we were basically trading baskets for a while. With the score the way it was, we weren't able to do that - we had to get some stops and we had to score."

Although Virginia actually outscored Wake Forest 42-35 in the second half, the majority of the Cavaliers' points came when Wake began to relax a bit on defense. Freshman guard Jontel Evans' two steals contributed to four points of a 10-0 Virginia run that cut Wake's lead to 11, but the Deacons responded quickly with an easy bucket down low from sophomore forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who scored a relatively quiet 10 points but also pulled down 10 boards for his 13th double-double of the season. It was Smith more than Aminu, however, who made a Virginia comeback virtually impossible by scoring 15 of his 21 points in the second half. His penetration made a mockery of the pack-line defense that proved so effective for his own team.

"Sometimes we had trouble containing Smith off ball screens," Meyinsse said. "The pack - we have to try to contain penetration and we didn't do a good enough job of that, and that really hurt us tonight."

Even with the loss, Virginia remains atop the ACC standings, tied with Maryland. And though Landesberg said he did not think his team's win-streak would come to such a screeching halt, he remains sure of Virginia's ability to defend its home court.

"This was a game we could've won - foul trouble was a big factor in the game - but they have to come back to Charlottesville," Landesberg said. "We're still confident in ourselves. We're still confident that we're one of the better teams out there and we just have to keep playing and working hard"


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