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Men’s basketball survives shooting woes, beats Wake Forest 49-47

Dunn leads the pack-line defense and Beekman paces the offense in a nailbiter victory

<p>&nbsp;As per usual, the team’s defense — led by Dunn — ultimately aided in saving the day for Virginia.</p>

 As per usual, the team’s defense — led by Dunn — ultimately aided in saving the day for Virginia.

Wake Forest nearly stole a win from Virginia in Charlottesville Saturday, but the game-tying shot from junior guard Cameron Hildreth was missed at the buzzer to seal a 49-47 Virginia victory. The Cavaliers (20-6, 11-4 ACC) led for the majority of the second half, but a ghastly 1-11 performance from the free-throw line nearly prevented the win against the Demon Deacons (16-9, 8-6 ACC).

Senior guard Reece Beekman led the way for the Cavaliers on offense, managing 20 points on 16 shots and dishing four assists. Sophomore guard Ryan Dunn was a huge presence on the defensive end, limiting Wake Forest’s third-leading scorer, senior forward Andrew Carr, to just four points and contributing seven blocks and nine rebounds. 

“[Carr] had a hard time getting by Dunn,” Wake Forest Coach Steve Forbes said.

The Cavaliers lost the opening tip, but still came out on fire. After Demon Deacon junior center Efton Reid hit a hook shot over graduate forward Jordan Minor to open the scoring, sophomore guard Andrew Rohde connected Dunn to get the Cavaliers on the board. Rohde then splashed a three-pointer from the right wing after a Demon Deacon miss and Dunn missed a chance to extend the Cavalier lead by missing both free throws.

Reid then traded baskets with Virginia, hitting a pair of layups late in the shot clock that were equalized by jump shots from Beekman and sophomore guard Isaac McKneely. Rohde then found McKneely for another jump shot to put Virginia up 11-6 going into the first TV timeout.

Wake Forest then clawed its way back in ugly fashion. Junior guard Hunter Sallis opened his tab with a slashing drive to the basket — the last basket either team would register for four minutes. During those four minutes, neither team could hold on to the ball and the referees made several calls that were questioned by both benches. 

Beekman finally ended the drought by hitting a floater to make the score 13-8. As Beekman dribbled the ball up the court a few minutes later, Coach Tony Bennett was charged with a technical foul when arguing with a call — only the second technical foul on Bennett throughout his career with Virginia. Miller proceeded to sink both foul shots off of the technical to increase Wake Forest’s lead to three. A missed jump shot by Beekman was then turned into a made basket for Carr, who until that point had been held scoreless by Dunn. 

After a pair of fruitless possessions, McKneely hit a short floater. Reid missed a jump shot, then Dunn cut the deficit to one point with a layup after nearly kicking the ball out of bounds. Wake Forest got one last shot before the halftime buzzer, but the three-pointer from Carr fell short. 

The Demon Deacons led 22-21 entering half despite shooting just 31 percent, including 2-10 from beyond the arc. Virginia committed an uncharacteristic five turnovers and shot 1-6 from deep in the a below-par first half. 

The Cavaliers instantly improved their three-point shooting totals out of the half, with Beekman making two and going on an 8-2 run by himself on the first three possessions. Sallis responded with a jump shot, and the teams then sat in stalemate for another few minutes. 

After a media timeout, graduate forward Jacob Groves found Beekman for a quick layup to restore the five-point lead. Carr sank a pair of free throws after a foul call, then back-to-back Demon Deacon two-pointers restored their lead. 

A McKneely jump shot quickly put the Cavaliers back on top 32-31. A minute later, junior guard Dante Harris connected on a jump shot from the top of the key. Dunn blocked a Carr layup attempt, then found Buchanan for a slam on the other end, bringing the crowd to their feet. After a chaotic layup attempt from Miller fell through the hoop, Beekman intercepted a Wake Forest pass and went coast-to-coast for a dunk, sending the game to a timeout, the fans into rapture and Harris and Miller into a brief confrontation that resulted in technical fouls.  

The Cavaliers were up seven points and cruising, but the Demon Deacons refused to go away. Reid hit a layup, then Miller found Sallis for a three-pointer to make it 41-39. Minor missed a pair of free throws that would have extended the lead but grabbed a clutch rebound on the next possession and paved the way for Beekman to go around Reid for a layup. Wake Forest responded with an immediate three-pointer, and going into the game's final TV timeout, the Cavaliers led by just one point. 

Beekman found McKneely for his first three-pointer of the night to extend the lead to four with four minutes to play, and the teams again went into a stalemate. Both sides watched shots roll agonizingly off the rim for three painful minutes. Finally, Hildreth made a layup to make it 46-44. 

Virginia ran the clock down to 40 seconds on the next possession, with Buchanan tipping in a Dunn miss to restore the four-point lead. He was fouled, but missed the ensuing free throw. 

As the seconds ticked away, both Dunn and Beekman missed free throws that could have sealed the game. Sallis made a huge three-pointer to reduce the Demon Deacon deficit to one point, and finally McKneely made Virginia’s first free throw of the night to make it 49-47 with six seconds left. 

Without a timeout, Wake Forest inbounded the ball to Hildreth. The junior sprinted the length of the court, and finding himself without options, tossed up a shot with no chance of falling. The Cavaliers survived on their home court, finding itself infinitesimally closer to an NCAA Tournament bid. As per usual, the team’s defense — led by Dunn — ultimately aided in saving the day for Virginia.

“So much of defense is about heart and hustle,” Bennett said. “But it is about anticipation, communication and being continuous … I thought Ryan [Dunn] was active tonight.” 

Virginia will return to action Monday night in Blacksburg, where they will look to complete the Commonwealth Clash sweep against rivals Virginia Tech. The game against the Hokies will tip off at 7 p.m. on ESPN. 


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