WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — What Virginia lacked as much as anything during the first half of its men’s basketball schedule was a legitimate 3-point threat.
The Cavaliers couldn’t have asked for more than they got Sunday, when junior-college transfer Tomas Woldetensae scored 21 points as UVa defeated host Wake Forest 65-63 in overtime.
Woldetensae, originally from Italy, was 7 for 14 on 3-pointers on an afternoon when the rest of his team went 1 for 16.
“It was huge,” Bennett said of Woldetensae’s contribution. “They played zone [defense] every possession and, with our shooting percentages, some people, not all, are going to really back off.”
Virginia (13-6, 5-4 ACC) didn’t have a 3-pointer from anybody else but Woldetensae until 7-foot-1 Jay Huff connected from behind the arc with 39 seconds remaining in regulation.
That gave Virginia a 54-53 lead that rose to 56-53 when Kihei Clark hit two free throws with 20 seconds left.
The Cavaliers appeared safe for as long as they could keep the Deacons from making a 3-pointer. Fouling a shooter inside the 3-point arc would have worked, but UVa freshman Casey Morsell fouled Wake’s Andrien White from just outside the arc with 1.7 seconds left.
White knocked down all three free throws and finished with 21 points while playing all 45 minutes.
White’s contribution was crucial for the Deacons (9-10, 2-7), who were without the services of their No. 1 and 2 scorers, Brandon Childress and Chaundee Brown.
“I thought we got off to a slow start offensively but Virginia has been known to do that to some teams,” said Wake coach Danny Manning, whose Deacons trailed 12-4 after the first 9 minutes but rallied to take a 35-28 halftime lead.
A dunk by Wake’s Jahcobi Neath with 17:36 left in the second half put the Wahoos in a 40-28 hole.
Virginia responded with an 18-4 run, seemingly seizing the momentum until Wake’s White hit two free throws to put the Deacons ahead 54-53 with 39 seconds remaining.
It was followed by one of the biggest shots of the afternoon, that being Huff’s trey. Other than Woldetensae, UVa hadn’t made a 3 until that point and would miss three more bombs in the OT.
It was the only 3-point attempt of the day for Huff, limited to 13½ minutes because of foul trouble. He was disqualified after picking up his fifth foul with 3:30 to play in overtime.
“Jay’s been playing really well for us,” Bennett said. “He didn’t have one of his better games today but he’s really been playing well up until this point. Coming off the bench and banging that 3, my heart goes out to him because that was huge.”
Virginia had come into the game with four losses in its last five games. Worth noting is that UVa is 3-2 in conference road games and 2-2 at home.
“Every game we’ve lost, we’ve either been ahead or tied [with] under 4 or 5 minutes,” said Bennett, whose team was coming off a 53-51 loss to N.C. State on Monday at John Paul Jones Arena.
Virginia returns to JPJ on Tuesday night to face a Florida State squad that is ranked fifth by The Associated Press and defeated the Cavaliers 54-50 in Tallahassee earlier this month.
“I think [Sunday’s win] big,” Huff said. “We have confidence now that we can win these games and we knew that. We were in a bunch of games and just didn’t close. We managed to finish this one off with a win.”
He wasn’t surprised by Woldetensae’s performance.
“I knew he could shoot,” Huff said. “We’ve all known that he could do that type of thing on any given night. We’re lucky he picked today to do it.”
Woldetensae 7-15 0-0 21, Clark 4-11 5-5 13, Key 2-16 3-9 7, Diakite 7-10 2-4 16, Morsell 1-7 0-0 2, Huff 1-1 0-0 3, Caffaro 1-1 1-1 3, Coleman 0-2 0-0 0, McKoy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-63 11-19 65.
WAKE FOREST (9-10)
White 4-13 10-11 21, Johnson 2-5 3-3 7, Sarr 2-9 7-8 11, Mucius 6-9 1-2 16, Neath 2-10 0-0 5, Massoud 1-5 0-0 3, Oguama 0-2 0-0 0, Wynn 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-54 21-24 63.
Halftime—Wake Forest 35-28. 3-Point Goals—Virginia 8-29 (Woldetensae 7-14, Huff 1-1, Coleman 0-1, Clark 0-4, Key 0-4, Morsell 0-5), Wake Forest 8-18 (Mucius 3-5, White 3-7, Neath 1-2, Massoud 1-4). Fouled Out—Huff. Rebounds—Virginia 40 (Clark, Key 8), Wake Forest 39 (Sarr, Mucius 10). Assists—Virginia 12 (Clark 7), Wake Forest 8 (Sarr 3). Total Fouls—Virginia 19, Wake Forest 17.