After a very uneven start to the season, the Virginia Cavaliers finally appear to be picking up some traction.
Virginia (10-6, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) started the campaign 7-5 but has won three of its last four games to take some momentum into a home game against Wake Forest (13-4, 3-3) on Saturday in Charlottesville.
The Cavaliers gutted out a win in a rivalry game on Wednesday, holding off visiting Virginia Tech 54-52.
Virginia turned up the defensive pressure and held the Hokies to just four points over the final 6:40 while the offense did just enough to get over the finish line.
Francisco Caffaro scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds off the bench to lead Virginia in both categories. Armaan Franklin added 15 points, and Reece Beekman had 11.
“It was such a hard-fought game,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “And I thought again, our guys, though not perfect or pretty, that’s who we are. They took a step in the right direction to be as rugged as they could be on both ends of the floor. Both teams played their hearts out.”
Wake Forest, on the other hand, is coming off a strong effort that still resulted in a 76-64 home loss to eighth-ranked Duke on Wednesday.
The game was tied in the final minute of the first half, but a 24-3 Blue Devils run built up enough separation to put the outcome out of reach.
There were some positive signs for the Demon Deacons out of the game, most notably from guard Alondes Williams, who scored 25 points for the second game in a row.
“I thought that Duke did an unbelievable job of imposing their will on us at the end of the half and the beginning of the second half,” Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes said. “They won the game in the middle eight (minutes).”
Williams leads the Demon Deacons in scoring (20.7 points per game), rebounds (6.7 per game) and assists (five per game).
The Saturday game is the only scheduled meeting this season between the two teams. Virginia defeated Wake Forest 70-61 in the lone meeting last season, the Cavaliers’ ninth consecutive victory in the series.