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Men's Basketball: Stopping Ish Smith

Tony Bennett does not often watch games with the volume on, but he did during Wake Forest's win over North Carolina on Wednesday. His ears perked up when he heard the commentator say that Demon Deacons Coach Dino Gaudio said point guard Ish Smith is faster end line to end line than former Wake Forest stars Chris Paul and Jeff Teague.

"That kind of struck me," Bennett said, "like, wow that's fast."

After deferring to teammates such as Teague last season and experiencing a dip in his numbers, Smith has validated his value as a senior. He averages 13.1 points per game with 5.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds. In the victory over the Tar Heels, Smith finished with 20 points, six assists and seven rebounds.

"He's just a courageous, courageous kid. He tries puts the team on the back and carry them," Gaudio said. "He's just got to make sure he has vision with the basketball of some other guys on the floor as well. I think, maybe, the word we coaches all use is "trust" his teammates a little more."

Gaudio said he wants Smith "playing off his instincts." Smith struggled with seven points on 3-of-12 shooting with four assists while fouling out of Sunday's loss to Duke. But Smith is one of the most experienced players in the ACC, and is proving to be one the best.

"There's no one in this country I'd rather have running this basketball team for me, for the way we play, than Ish Smith," Gaudio said.

In addition to Smith's speed, Bennett raved about Smith's ability to push the ball and came around ball screens. Bennett said Smith "lets the game come", and that he actually has a good touch despite shooting 23.5 percent from three-point range.

Considering Smith's skill set, it is likely Virginia again starts -- and prominently play -- freshman guard Jontel Evans, who is the Cavaliers' best on-the-ball defender in the back court and an elite athlete. But Bennett warned it cannot just be Evans -- especially in the Cavaliers' pack-line defense.

Smith "draws a crowd," Bennett said. "You got to be mindful of him and, to the best of your abilities as a team -- every team tries -- to wall him off and not let him get to that point as easy it makes him look, because I know teams are desperately trying to keep him out. I don't think you can say one guy can lock him up and shadow him. Your team defense has to work against him."

By Zach Berman  |  January 22, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
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Next: Men's Basketball: With Evans in, what happens to Baker?

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