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Wake Forest freshman grow up fast in win over Virginia

The SportsXchange

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Maybe it's time to stop calling Wake Forest such a young team.

The Deacons, who have three freshmen starters, made all the right moves and grew up a little more Wednesday night in a 55-52 win over the Virginia Cavaliers at Joel Coliseum.

Senior C.J. Harris scored 16 points and made several key free throws down the stretch as Wake Forest evened its record to 1-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 8-6 overall. But it was also the young players who stepped up when the Deacons needed it.

Harris, an 80 percent foul shooter, was a perfect 8-for-8 from the line. He made six in the final 1:19.

Backing Harris were junior Travis McKie, who scored 14 points, and freshman Arnaud William Adala Moto, who added nine points. Devin Thomas, another freshman, was all over the boards with eight rebounds, three blocked shots and two assists.

"We did a lot of good things," Coach Jeff Bzdelik of the Deacons said.

Doing most of the good things down the stretch was Harris, the only senior starter.

"We gutted out a tough win today so I was proud of our guys," said Harris, who made 3-of-10 field goals but did his damage from the foul line. "We knew they were going to foul and on our press offense we just tried to keep moving."

Virginia (11-4, 1-1) was down three and had the ball with 5.3 seconds left after Harris hit two free throws, but the Cavaliers failed to get off a shot. Point guard Jontel Evans turned the ball over trying to pass to Mike Tobey just outside the 3-point arc.

Picking up the loose ball was guard Joe Harris of the Cavaliers who tried a desperation 3-pointer but the final buzzer had sounded.

"It was kind of a muffled pass and I came and picked it up but it was too late," Joe Harris said.

The Cavaliers were coming off a big win over North Carolina, but couldn't continue that momentum.

"I don't know what we could pin it on," Joe Harris said. "We just lacked execution and focus and energy and it was a game we didn't come ready to play and we didn't deserve to win this game."

The Cavaliers committed 17 turnovers, their second-highest total this season, and shot just 36.4 percent from the field (20-for-55).

Tobey led the Cavaliers with 14 points, and he added seven rebounds. Joe Harris had 13 points, and Akil Mitchell scored 10 points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.

The Cavaliers, who went 3 for 11 on 3-point attempts, made all three of their 3-pointers in the final minute, but it wasn't enough.

Bzdelik said there's a reason the Cavs had that many turnovers.

"The deal was we were defending pretty well," Bzdelik said. "We picked them up full court too and we wanted to see if we could speed them up a little bit. We have some quickness and athleticism and we didn't want them to be comfortable."

The Deacons had a seemingly comfortable 14-point lead in the second half but failed to make a field goal in the final 10:22 of the game and still managed to win.

"That's crazy," C.J. Harris said. "We were getting good shots and I missed a couple of layups down there but we were getting stops on defense and that's the main thing."

The Deacons, who shot 41 percent for the game, were 15 of 21 on the foul line and made just enough of them down the stretch.

"Coach doesn't really hold us accountable for being young," Thomas said. "I don't think any of us follow the media or anything like that. Coach just holds us more accountable and he knows we are going to make mistakes but now we feel more like sophomores."

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team lacked the execution it showed in the win over North Carolina.

"We got out of the gates and turned the ball over at an alarming rate," Bennett said. "Our upperclassmen were out of sync and played rushed. That really affected us."

NOTES: Wake Forest has beaten Virginia 10 straight times at Joel Coliseum and 14 of the past 15 times going back to the 1994-95 season. ... Virginia began the night second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 50.8 points a game. Virginia has held six opponents under 50 points this season. ... In the latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll, Virginia received one vote. ... Harris headed into Wednesday's game with 1,326 career points, which ranked sixth in the ACC among active players.
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