Men’s basketball defeated Wake Forest in an overtime thriller Sunday afternoon, 65-63. The Cavaliers (13-6, 5-4 ACC) were led in scoring by junior guard Tomas Woldetensae, who had a career-high 21 points in the win, while the Demon Deacons (9-10, 2-7 ACC) stayed in the game in part due to 21 points by senior guard Andrien White.
Virginia started the game hot with two straight field goals, including a three from Woldetensae — who finished the afternoon 7-of-14 from the three-point arc. While Wake Forest responded with points of its own, at the 16:48 mark, Cavalier sophomore guard Kihei Clark sank a jumper to give Virginia an early 7-4 lead.
“[Woldetensae] stretched the defense and he can shoot it, so that was really good to see even though — I don't know what our overall percentage was for the game, but we'll take anybody making them,” Coach Tony Bennett said.
However, following Clark’s jumper, the two teams would go on a four-minute scoring drought, as neither team was able to convert shots, let alone draw shooting fouls. A second three-pointer by Woldetensae would briefly end this drought at 12:48, but the ACC foes would then go scoreless for another 3:48.
Nevertheless, with nine minutes to play, senior guard Mamadi Diakite drained a jumper off of a Demon Deacon turnover to end the drought, and Wake Forest junior center Olivier Sarr followed suit with a hookshot, making it 12-6 in favor of the Cavaliers. As Virginia tried to extend its lead, however, the Demon Deacons continued to respond, often finding ways to get to the free throw line. Of note, Wake Forest shot 87.5 percent from the charity stripe, scoring 21 points.
With 5:19 left to play, the Demon Deacons found a break, scoring 11 straight points in 2:11 to seize a 27-21 lead. This would be the anchor of a 19-7 run by Wake Forest to end the half, as Virginia found itself down 35-28 after the first 20 minutes of play. Although the Cavaliers’ defense was strong for the majority of the first half, their inability to take advantage of an eight-minute Demon Deacon scoring drought allowed Wake Forest to find its rhythm and sink six of their nine three pointers in the first half.
The Demon Deacons continued their hot shooting from behind the arc in the second half, as White drained a three-pointer off of a fast break just 41 seconds into the final 20 minutes of play. A couple possessions later, Wake Forest freshman guard Jahcobi Neath would convert a dunk off a rebound to extend the Demon Deacons’ lead to 12, as the crowd at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum went wild.
However, Clark would do his part in silencing the crowd by converting an and-one, sparking a 16-4 run for the Cavaliers over the next 8:13, which knotted the game at 44-44. Just under a minute later, freshman guard Casey Morsell — who has had his shooting struggles this season — sank a tough layup to give the Cavaliers the lead back with 8:10 to play.
White quickly responded on Wake Forest’s next possession with a mid-range jumper, as the two teams went back and forth and scoring became a luxury. With 50 seconds left, Wake Forest scored just its eighth and ninth points since Morsell’s layup over seven minutes earlier off of two White free throws, but nonetheless took the lead with 53-51.
However, Virginia would respond with a corner three by junior forward Jay Huff, granting the Cavaliers a one-point lead, and after two free-throws from Clark, Virginia looked like it was set to leave Winston-Salem with a crucial ACC win. Nonetheless, with just 1.7 seconds left in regulation, Morsell committed a controversial shooting foul on White from behind the three-point arc. Despite Coach Tony Bennett’s best efforts to ice White with timeouts, he would sink all three free throws. On the subsequent inbound, Clark let a 60-foot heave go in the hopes of ending the game, and the shot barely rimmed out — sending the ACC match-up into overtime.
In overtime, after a missed jumper by senior guard Braxton Key, Virginia went on a 7-3 run. However, with 1:49 left, Demon Deacon sophomore forward Isaiah Mucius would sink a three-pointer to cut the Cavaliers’ lead to one, but the experienced Diakite responded with a tough shot inside the paint to extend Virginia’s lead. The Cavaliers’ defense would stay strong in the following 1:05, allowing just one point off of a free-throw and clinching a 65-63 victory.
“To come away with [a win] was important because in this league, as you're seeing, whoever is ready and whoever is playing the best has a chance,” Bennett said. “There are some excellent teams, but everybody is in play."
Virginia will hope to build off of this victory against No. 5 Florida State at John Paul Jones Arena Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN.