CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (Ticker)—Virginia found a cure for its woes to which all Atlantic Coast Conference schools can relate - a return home.
Todd Billet scored 23 points and Devin Smith added 17 as the Cavaliers picked up a much-needed 85-75 victory over 18th-ranked Wake Forest.
Virginia (11-6, 2-3 ACC) ended a three-game skid - all on the road and moved to 8-0 at home. ACC teams are 20-4 at home in league play.
“We were desperate for a victory after losing three in a row,” Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. “I thought our defense was good. We beat a very good team.”
The Demon Deacons (12-2, 2-2) also are unbeaten at home but were seeking their first ACC road win. Vytas Danelius scored 17 of his 20 points in the first half as Wake Forest held the lead for the first 18 minutes.
But the Cavaliers closed the half with an 11-4 run, taking a 43-41 lead on a 3-pointer by Billet just eight seconds before the buzzer. Billet converted a layup 17 seconds into the second half to trigger a 6-0 burst that built an eight-point advantage.
“Virginia played very well,” said Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser, an assistant under Gillen at Xavier from 1986-93. “We knew they would be a wounded animal. We fought hard, but we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
A layup by Wake Forest guard Taron Downey sliced the deficit to 60-56 with just over 11 minutes remaining. Smith responded with a 3-pointer as the Cavaliers answered with an 11-3 tear to push the margin to 71-59.
Billet and Smith each made three 3-pointers for Virginia, which shot 40 percent (8-of-20) from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers clicked at 56 percent (15-of-27) from the field in the second half.
Travis Watson collected 11 points and 13 rebounds and Jason Clark netted 10 points in just his third start of the season. Virginia usually employs a three-guard lineup with Billet, Smith and Keith Jenifer, but Jenifer was sent to the bench.
“We thought we had to make a change,” Gillen said. “We played pretty well against Duke (last week), but after that, we started slipping.”
The lineup change prompted tears before the game from Jenifer, who has started 14 games this season. The sophomore played 16 minutes and noticeably refused to shoot, missing his only attempt.
Majestic Mapp also played his most meaningful minutes since returning on January 11 after being out for more than two years. He had four assists in 17 minutes.
“We need him,” Gillen said. “Our guys enjoy playing with him because he finds them with his passes. He gives us some fire and emotion.”
The Demon Deacons shot a sizzling 58 percent (15-of-26) in the first half, including a 7-of-9 effort by Danelius. They cooled off considerably over the final 20 minutes at 34.5 percent (10-of-29).
Wake Forest struggled with its ballhandling in its third third straight game without injured freshman Justin Gray, who is out with a broken jaw. Downey, who has assumed the point guard duties, committed eight of the team’s 15 turnovers.
“We haven’t shot well all year,” Prosser said. “They guarded us better than we executed on offense. We’re a shooter shy without Justin Gray in there.”
Josh Howard had a rough night from the floor for Wake Forest, making 7-of-19 shots for 20 points. Downey added 19.
Virginia improved to 28-9 all-time at University Hall against Wake Forest.