WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Deacs have a big opportunity at 8 p.m. tonight in Charlottesville, as they try to check a couple boxes off at the same time.
Under Danny Manning, Wake has yet to win an ACC road game.
They’ve also yet to beat a ranked conference team.
Check and check.
So as Wake (10-5, 1-2) faces Virginia (11-3, 1-2), they’ll have a chance to break through and end both of those unfortunate streaks at the same time.
We spoke with Wake coach Danny Manning about the matchup earlier this week before the Deacs practiced.
On UVA’s balance
Manning: “They’re a very balanced, tough team. They ran into a hot-shooting Pittsburgh team the other day. Tony’s (Bennett) teams play hard defensively. Offensively, they work the ball around to get a very good shot. They are very deliberate and smart on both sides of the basketball. For us, we have to do a very good job of playing defense with our head and our feet. We have to make sure we stay in front of the basketball.”
On being a part of home-court environments like this before
Manning: “We’ve had some guys that have been there (UVA). Virginia is always a tough team at home. They’re going to be coming off a loss. They will have their engines roaring, ready to go.”
On what he learned watching them play Pitt earlier in the week
Manning: “I learned if you shoot the ball well, it helps you (laughs). Look at what Pitt did. They shot the ball exceptionally well. It opened up a lot of things for them. It’s not different than what I told you guys the opening night of the ACC. That’s our league. Talk about balance and parity. In this league, every night it’s a tough game and an adventure, because anything can happen.”
On if Wake’s improved shooting will play a factor against UVA
Manning: “We’ll see. His team isn’t going to let us come out and have unguarded opportunities multiple times. It’s not going to happen with this team. I’m not saying we’ll make all of our shots, but we feel like we do have guys who are capable of making shots with opportunity, time and space. Hopefully that does play into it. Hopefully teams do have to play us different. The success John Collins has had so far — he’s playing well and is very productive. But I think part of that is because the threat of perimeter shooting. Now you have to stay attached to your man, so when the ball does go into the post it’s a little bit further of a run to get in there and guard him. Now, Virginia is one of the better defensive teams in the country, and they will throw different looks at us. We have to be able to adjust.”
On the pack-line defense employed by UVA trying to limit paint touches
Manning: “We want to get down there and get into the paint, though it doesn’t have to be on the pass, we can dribble it there too. Our guards have to do a good job of trying to attack the paint. We also have to make sure we do a good job in transition and getting out to run. Not just taking a quick shot, but getting out on the run and maybe creating some driving lanes.”
On playing UVA competitively the last couple years, losing by just a single point
Manning: “Not a point enough. We’ve had guys that have gone up there and played well and put ourselves in a position to win the ballgame. We just haven’t been able to get the job done. Hopefully we can come out with that kind of effort and find a way to get the win.”
On what he’s been please with defensively in the last few games from his team
Manning: “One of the things we’re becoming better at is being a better communicating team. I think that’s something that younger teams have a problem with, in terms of being vocal and talking defensively. That’s something we’ve put an emphasis on and try to get better at every day. You’re going to make mistakes when you play. That’s part of the game. Communication allows you to cover up some mistakes by just getting everybody on the right page on in the right spot defensively. I think we’re getting better at that.”
On what defensively he is still looking for from his team
Manning: “We have to continue to stay sound in our principles. We have to continue to play good first-shot defense, then finish the possession off with the ball. We’re getting better. We’re taking steps in the right direction. When the shot goes up, you just have to make sure you give them one, contested shot. That’s the goal, and go from there. Players are going to make plays, you just have to make sure that on average you do what you’re supposed to do.”
On preparing for such a balanced team
Manning: “You do what you do. It’s no different than our team. There’s balance, that as a coach, I like seeing. Tony gets great balance from his team, and different guys are able to go off for big numbers for him depending on the defense.”
On working to get up tempo against UVA
Manning: “That’s certainly part of the thought process. They’re going to be able to play their style in certain phases of the game, and we’re going to have to play our style in phases, but you have to prepare to play both. Though Virginia is very deliberate in some of the things they do, they can go up-tempo too. But we have to be better deliberately and executing the offense.”