Outmanned Wake Forest slowed tonight's Atlantic Coast Conference basketball game against Virginia to a snail's pace. But the Cavaliers, who are no strangers to this style of play, adapted quickly and won, 54-47, before 9,000 in University Hall.
Any team that has a guard like Wake Forest's 5-foot-3 Tyrone (Muggsy) Bogues has a chance to keep a game close, even when it is 0-6 in conference play and without three of its top six players. This is because it is almost impossible to take the ball away from Bogues, from Baltimore's Dunbar High.
In fact, the key is to keep Bogues from disintegrating your defense, as he did against North Carolina State in a 45-44 loss Saturday. And because each possession becomes more valuable, patience becomes a golden virtue against a slowdown team.
"I think most people could have written the script tonight," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland, when the Cavaliers' eighth victory in their last nine games was history. "They did what they had to do. We did what we had to do. We managed to play well enough . . . to post the victory."
Virginia (13-4, 3-2 in the ACC) took control with a 16-5 streak midway through the second half, giving the Cavaliers a 48-35 lead with seven minutes to play. It was typical of their performance tonight: They were extremely patient on offense and they exploited Wake Forest's inside weakness, with 15 of their first 42 points set up by offensive rebounds. Virginia finished with a 36-22 rebounding advantage.
Guards Rod Watson (20 points) and Bogues (19 points, five assists) scored all but eight of Wake Forest's points. But no team is going to win when its starting front line totals eight points and 10 rebounds in 91 playing minutes, especially when Olden Polynice (16 points, seven rebounds) plays center for the opposition.
The key for Virginia was its man-to-man defense, which made it hard for Bogues to get the ball back once he gave it up in the second half. The strategy was helped significantly by Holland deploying three true guards at the same time in order to counter Bogues' quickness.
In the first half, after which Virginia led by four, the Cavaliers played off of Bogues, and he hit the open jumper or passed to Watson for open shots. In the second half, guarded mainly by Johnny Johnson, Bogues had to run consistently just to get open enough to get a return pass from his teammates.
"He didn't penetrate against us like he did against N.C. State," said Johnson. "He broke their defense down almost every time down court."
In fact, it was Wake Forest that broke down with Bogues out of the game, given a one-minute breather by first-year Coach Bob Staak when Virginia started pulling away.
With two starting forwards injured and center Mike Scott having quit school within the past week, the Demon Deacons (6-12, 0-7 in the ACC) are in disarray. Staak even had to recruit three walk-ons in order to practice.
So all Virginia had to do was get itself mentally ready for a long night. As forward Drew Kennedy, who blocked two shots in Virginia's big streak, said:
"We knew we had to be very patient. We knew they would come down and take good shots. We knew we would have to play good defense for 25-30 seconds, and we had to get mentally conditioned to make the best of our shots and our offensive opportunities."
Virginia made the most of its opportunities during a 22-minute period from which the score went from 14-all to 48-35. Virginia had 26 possessions during the stretch and scored 34 points, a hefty 1.3 per possessions. In the 16-5 run, guard Richard Morgan scored 10 of his 12 points, including two nifty follow-up baskets off his own misses.
Holland thus was able to clear his bench with a 15-point lead late in the game and start planning for Saturday's conference game at N.C. State.
"We have 10 games left and I don't think we will be the favorite in more than two or three of them, and we're 13-4," he said. "That's incredible."
That's also the ACC.