Wake Forest vs Virginia Basketball Preview

Wake Forest vs Virginia Basketball Preview

By Josh Burton

Coming off a rough 74-63 loss to Pitt on Tuesday, the University of Virginia Men’s Basketball team is now 19-6 (10-4 in the ACC) and sets their sights on hosting Wake Forest this Saturday (2/17). The game is scheduled for a noon tip and will air on ESPN2.

About Wake Forest

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons are led by Steve Forbes. Forbes is in his fourth season at Wake, going 66-48 so far. He is 196-91 overall in his head coaching career, while Wake has gone 16-8 (8-5 in ACC play) so far this season. The last time these teams met in January, Wake came away with a 66-47 home victory.  Wake is coming off a 77-69 loss at Duke on Monday.  

Under Forbes, Wake Forest has become known as a program who thrives on transfers. Their starting lineup includes four transfers. Wake now has 10 players who are averaging double-digit minutes with the return of 6’6” Senior guard Damari Monsanto, who was one of their top players last season and is now in a key role off the bench. They generally line up as follows:

PG - Kevin Miller (6’0” Sophomore) Averages 15.7 points and 3.9 assists per game.

G - Cameron Hildreth (6’4” Junior) Averages 14 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

G - Hunter Sallis (6’5” Junior) Averages 18.7 points and 4 rebounds per game, hitting 40.3% from three-point range.

F - Andrew Carr (6’10” Senior) Averages 14 points and 6.8 rebounds, hitting 40.3% from three-point range on just under 3 attempts per game.

F - Efton Reid III (7’0” Junior) Averages 8.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

Wahoo fans may remember Efton Reid, Coach Bennett and the staff recruited the Richmond native out of high school. Efton ultimately committed to LSU. He transferred out after one season and went to Gonzaga, where he again transferred after one season to now be at Wake Forest. With his waiver to play acquired, Reid is the starting five man for Forbes squad.

Then to Now

The last time we played Wake, they were more guard-oriented than they are now.  “Boopie” Miller and Hildreth were hitting 38.8% and 45.6% from three, respectively. They have both cooled off, as Boopie is now at 32.4% on the season while Hildreth is down to 36.7%.  Each of their scoring averages have dipped by over two points per game.

Meanwhile, Hunter Sallis has been on an absolute tear of late, The transfer from Gonzaga scored 33 and then 22 in their last two games. He is their number one threat to score from just about anywhere on the court, and the Wahoos will have their hands full trying to keep him in check all afternoon. 

For the Wahoos, the previous meeting with Wake was the last game they tried a different lineup before settling on the current starting five they've used since hosting Virginia Tech. That was also the first game in which Jordan Minor received the start. It was one of their worst offensive games  The Wahoos shot a dreadful 28.1% overall and only managed to hit 4 of 12 from three-point range.  

Shooting and Defending

This matchup will follow a similar path as Tuesday night. It will mainly come down to two areas, starting with the three-point line. Wake hits at a decent 35.1% clip, while the Hoos have connected on a terrific 37.8% (good for 17th in the entire country). Neither team shoots a lot of threes though.  Wake ranks 280th nationally in three-point attempt rate, with UVA further down at 301st.  Whichever team can find their rhythm from outside will hold the advantage in this one. 

The other main battle ground will be at the free-throw line. Wake is very good at getting to the line, being within the top 15 in the country at free throw rate. They also convert them at a decent 74.7%. Virginia is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, ranking #340 at free throw rate and their percentage is also a lowly #336. I don’t expect the Hoos to improve much on their own ranking, but moving their feet and playing sound defense so that they don’t send Wake to the line will be crucial.

Lead Men

Reece Beekman and Isaac McKneely have been the most consistent scorers for the Cavs all season, and they have both upped their games as of late. Reece hasn’t scored less than his season average 14 points in any of the last five games, while Isaac has scored 44 in just the last two contests combined. Look for the dynamic duo to try and continue their impressive streaks.

Big Stretch

Buckle up Wahoo fans, because Saturday is part of an action packed week-long stretch for the team. After hosting Wake Forest, they will head to Virginia Tech for a Monday night showdown (2/19) before coming back to host North Carolina next Saturday (2/24). Keep an eye out for possible Locker Room Access events coming up before the Carolina game!

(Featured Image Credit: Josie Drumheller/UVA Athletics) 

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