BOZICH | Jones says Louisville's Big Four need others to "step up"
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WDRB) – Five rapid thoughts on Louisville's 52-47 loss to Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena Saturday night (beware of an occasional flying brick):
1. This is all you need to know about the way the University of Virginia (players, fans, ball boys, ushers) has bought into Tony Bennett's Defense First approach with the Cavaliers.
The loudest ovation of the night came when Virginia steamed and pressed the Cardinals into 35 seconds of the most unrelenting defense I've seen this season, resulting in a Louisville shot clock violation.
Terry Rozier and Chris Jones, the Cards' starting guards, can usually break down any defense late in the shot clock and launch a shot. Rub off a screen. Cross somebody over. Hesitation move. Something. Happens all the time.
Not against this Virginia defense.
And when the Cards stalled, the entire arena stood and roared. People loved it the way Louisville fans love a Montrezl Harrell slam.
"Their defense is real good," Rozier said. "They help each other."
2. Defense, defense, defense – It was more than one possession, of course. At halftime, Louisville had 13 points. They finished the final 10:32 of the half without a field goal. They made only four of 21 first-half shots in the first 20 minutes.
The second half was much better. Much, much better. The Cards made 13 of 25 shots. They're only the third team to shoot 50 percent or better in a half against Virginia this season.
Pitino said there was a reason. His guards stopped breaking off plays and trying to score on high pick-and-rolls.
"I was very disappointed in our team because we worked very hard for three days at a way to beat their defense and we ignored it in the first half, by and large," Pitino said.
"The one thing you can't do is break the offense and go one on one and run high pick and rolls against this team. And we did that.
"Finally in the second half, we ran our offense and we got good looks, good plays, good post plays and we almost came back."
The final snapshot from the game was Rozier losing the ball out of bounds while trying to drive into the Virginia defense on Louisville's final possession. Turnover. The end.
Louisville finished the game 17 of 46 from the field, 37 percent. The Cards actually shot the ball better than Virginia, which finished at 33 percent.
3. The Big Four Still Need HELP! – These numbers are difficult to believe, but they are true:
The Cards have now played 88 minutes and 13 seconds without getting a point from anybody other than Montrezl Harrell, Terry Rozier, Chris Jones or Wayne Blackshear.
They have also played 100 minutes and 25 seconds without getting a field goal from anybody other than the Big Four.
Rozier led Louisville with 16 points. Jones had 11, Harrell 12 and Blackshear 8.
That was all, folks.
Sometimes people joke about a team playing five against four. On the offensive end, Louisville has been playing four against five.
"That's for other players to step up and take care of their business," Jones said. "We got four main players. I understand guys come off the bench and try to do their role, but you've got to chip in.
"If Terry comes out and Anton (Gill) goes in you've got to do what Terry did. If I come out and Quentin (Snider) comes in, Quentin got to pick up where I left off. It's just something guys got to figure out. Coach will get it together. We'll get it together. It's the beginning of February. It's just something where we've all got to come together as one."
Is the issue confidence?
"A lot of young guys, when you don't play a lot, you tend to drop your head, lack of confidence like you said," Jones said. "They'll get through it."
4. Virginia (9-1) now leads the Atlantic Coast Conference race by two games in the loss column. Like Louisville (7-3), Notre Dame also lost Saturday (at Duke). That leaves the Irish, Cards, Duke and North Carolina with three ACC defeats.
Virginia has only been beaten once in league play (by Duke).
The schedule tilts heavily in favor of coach Tony Bennett's team. Although the Cavaliers finish the season at the KFC Yum! Center, they're finished playing North Carolina, Duke and Notre Dame. It's difficult to imagine Virginia failing to win the title.
5. Louisville returns home for a pair of games next week. Pittsburgh visits Wednesday night, followed by North Carolina State Saturday.
If you're a believer in Ken Pomeroy's computer formula, good times should be ahead for the Cardinals. KenPom has U of L favored in its next seven games. The next time U of L won't be favored? When Virginia visits on March 7 for Senior Day.
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