Off to its best start in eight seasons, Wake Forest now faces a pair of daunting challenges, starting with its game Saturday at Brigham Young, which has the nation’s longest current home winning streak at 53 games.
The sixth-ranked Demon Deacons, who also host No. 1 North Carolina on Jan. 11, are 12-0 for the first time since 2000-01 following an 83-61 win over Radford on Tuesday. Jeff Teague scored 11 of his 19 points in the second half as the starters responded to a second-half benching by coach Dino Gaudio after the Highlanders took a one-point lead with 14:07 left.
“I’m glad we got this game under our belt before we play BYU,” Gaudio said.
Teague, who leads the team in scoring at 18.8 points per game, appears to be growing more comfortable running the offense. The sophomore—a shooting guard last season—did not have a turnover Tuesday after averaging 4.4 in his first 10 starts, and Wake has committed a total of 17 turnovers in its last two games after averaging 18.3 in its first 10.
But the Demon Deacons’ offense—scoring 84.5 points per game and shooting 51.3 percent—will face an equally proficient team in BYU (11-1), which averages 80.8 points while shooting 52.1 percent. The Cougars have not lost at the Marriott Center since an 83-71 defeat to Loyola Marymount on Nov. 18, 2005, but also have had a difficult time attracting high-quality opponents to its intimidating home venue.
BYU has played only one ranked opponent at home during its win streak, a 61-52 victory over conference rival and then-No. 16 Air Force on Jan. 27, 2007. “We don’t get many opportunities to play teams like this on our home court, and we hope to make the most of the experience,” Cougars coach Dave Rose said. “They’re a talented team, but our guys will be ready to play another big game.”
The Cougars, who have received votes in every AP poll this season but have not been ranked since March 10, will get a chance to showcase one of the best-scoring tandems in Lee Cummard (18.4 points per game) and Jonathan Tavernari (18.3 ppg).
Cummard, a 6-foot-7 senior, is shooting just under 60 percent, and Tavernari has a team-high 33 3-pointers and played well of late. The Brazilian junior has averaged 23.0 points in the past three games—hitting 52.0 percent of his shots (26-for-50) and 42.3 percent from 3-point range (11-for-26)—and had his third double-double of the season with 20 points and 10 rebounds in Tuesday’s 74-68 victory at Tulsa.
This will be the second ranked opponent for the Cougars, who lost 76-75 to then-No. 20 Arizona State on Dec. 20 at the University of Phoenix Stadium after referees overturned Charles Abouo’s basket at the buzzer.
Teague scored 26 points in last season’s 79-62 win at Winston-Salem, where Wake Forest limited BYU to 36 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers. Cummard had 15 points for the Cougars, but Tavernari was held to nine on 2-of-11 shooting.
Wake Forest leads the all-time series 3-1, with its only loss coming Dec. 30, 1952. The Demon Deacons have never played in Provo.