Wake Forest Beats Virginia Tech, Matches Last Season’s ACC Win Total AlreadyPosted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2012
Wake Forest has already matched its conference win total (one) from last season thanks to a 58-53 win over Virginia Tech (who was 11-3 coming into the game). The win is the Demon Deacons’ best in the last two seasons, as the only two power conference opponents they defeated last year was Big 10 doormat Iowa and a short-handed Virginia team. Last year, CJ Harris scored six points in the final two minutes to seal the deal as the Cavaliers went ice cold from the floor. This year Harris again proved the late-game hero against a different commonwealth squad, knocking down two huge threes to answer Virginia Tech’s first lead with just over a minute to play and the go-ahead bucket on the Demon Deacons’ final possession.
This game showed just how far Wake Forest has come since last season. Other than 15 seconds late in the second half, the Deacons never trailed. Every Virginia Tech run was answered by a big bucket from Travis McKie (in the first half), Tony Chennault (in the second half) or Harris (at the end of the game). The team certainly won’t stay at the top of the ACC for long; it struggles taking care of the ball, forcing turnovers and with shot selection. But the win shows just how far Jeff Bzdelik’s players have come since last year.
McKie, once the most consistent scorer on an awful team, now has the ability to control significant portions of the game with scoring and, at least against the Hokies, on the glass. Especially in the first half McKie scored in a variety of ways, excelling at getting to the basket in the halfcourt and transition. He also managed to pull down eight rebounds despite questionable rebounding for much of the season (he struggles to get in position on defense in particular). The ten pounds McKie reportedly gained over the summer also shows up in his greater confidence to take contact at the rim.
But even more important than his own development is the improvement of Harris and Chennault. Chennault has nearly cut his turnovers in half and improved his shooting (inside the arc) dramatically. Harris has transformed himself into one of the best offensive weapons in the ACC thanks to improved shot selection, especially from long range. To be clear, the Demon Deacons aren’t by any means a “good” team. They won’t make the Big Dance. But today’s win over Virginia Tech showed this team’s progress since last year. Factor in the incoming Top 25 recruiting class, and it shouldn’t be a stretch to put Wake Forest near the top of the ACC again in a couple of years.
As for this year, the biggest change on the court is the team’s demeanor. Last season, every run was answered with slumped shoulders and a flurry of rushed possessions. This year Wake showed some swagger down the stretch, going blow-for-blow with a team many expected to make the NCAA Tournament. Their newfound confidence comes with experience and should allow the Deacs to win several more conference games. There’s nowhere to go but up.