How Did Wake Forest Beat Virginia? Simple — at the Free Throw Line

Posted by KCarpenter on January 10th, 2013

What do you make of the ACC when Virginia can beat North Carolina on Sunday and then lose to Wake Forest by three on the following Wednesday? The Demon Deacons won this game by jumping ahead early and staying ahead. This didn’t come down to a fluke run or some gimmick strategy. Looking at only the box score from this game, you might even wonder how WFU was able to win at all. The Demon Deacons shot a paltry 40.9% from the field and 26.7% from three. Virginia took 11 more field goal attempts than the Deacs (which works out to a staggering 25% more attempts), mostly thanks to destroying Wake on the glass by collecting a whopping 16 offensive rebounds. Remarkably, the Demon Deacons did not score a field goal for the final 10 minutes of the game — yet, miraculously, they walked away with the win. What happened?

Travis McKie and His Teammates Have a Very High FT Rate

Travis McKie and His Teammates Have a Very High FT Rate

Stealthily, Wake Forest has become one of the best teams in the country at getting to the foul line. In this game, Wake went 15-of-21 from the free throw line (a pedestrian 71.4%). Twenty-one free throws isn’t an outrageously high number until you remember that Jeff Bzdelik’s team only attempted 44 field goals (again, thanks to Virginia’s rebounding as well as its glacial pace). Over the course of the season, Wake Forest has attempted about 50% as many free throws as they have field goals, a mark that, before  last night’s game, was the third best in the country. While the team hasn’t been great at making those free throws, you don’t have to make as many if you get to the line so often. While stars Travis McKie and C.J. Harris have shown a knack for getting to the line in the past, Wake Forest’s transition to living at the line as a team is a change from past seasons under Bzdelik and a lot of credit is due to the team’s newcomers. Of the six freshmen who play rotation minutes, five have free throw rates (FTA/FGA) over 55%. This team has six players who draw at least 4.5 fouls per forty minutes, so with the exception of freshman point guard Codi Miller-McIntyre and spot-up shooter Chase Fischer, every rotation player on the team is very good at drawing fouls and getting to the foul line.

That’s how you win games without a single made field goal in the final 10 minutes — the Deacs converted nine free throw attempts over the same period to keep Virginia at bay.

Of course, Wake Forest couldn’t have won without a poor shooting night from Virginia, who went 36.4% from the field and 27.3% from beyond the arc. When you play as slowly as Virginia does, though, it’s hard to bounce back from bad shooting nights. For a team that has shot nearly 40% on three-pointers so far this season, a few bad shooting nights were inevitable as the Cavaliers begin to regress to the mean. Of course, none of this is to detract from Wake Forest’s defense, which did, after all, have something to do with Virginia’s poor shooting. Wake Forest has been making teams pay at the line all season. Last night it was Virginia’s turn.

KCarpenter (269 Posts)

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