CRAWFORD | Absence of dread: Louisville looks forward to ACC meeting with No. 1 Virginia
Though they've lost six straight games to Virginia, Louisville players say they're looking forward to Thursday's meeting after last week's heartbreaking loss to the Cavaliers at home.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (WDRB) – Rick Pitino once famously called Virginia his program’s “kryptonite.” In any given season since joining the ACC, games against Virginia have been anticipated with all the excitement of a trip to the dentist’s office for Louisville players and fans.
At the very least, that feeling is different as the Cardinals looked forward to their third game against top-ranked Virginia this season at noon today in the Barclays Center.
Just one week ago, they were one second away from earning their second win over the Cavaliers since joining the ACC, when a series of mistakes and a banked three-pointer from De’Andre Hunter at the buzzer gave UVA a 67-66 victory after it had trailed by four with 0.9 seconds to play.
“Losing to Virginia last-second like we did, it never leaves your mind,” Louisville senior Anas Mahmoud said. “I think I’m going to be thinking that way for the rest of my life. Every time I get in a situation, like, ‘Oh my God,’ not Virginia. It doesn’t happen often, but it always stays in your head. . . . But we feel like we know what to do, defensively and offensively. It’s going to be a great game, I can’t wait to play. I didn’t think I would ever say that in my life, but I think we match up well with them and we know what we need to do.”
Louisville interim coach David Padgett said his team wasn’t using a chance to play Virginia again as motivation, but that his players aren’t shrinking from the challenge. Louisville has lost six in a row to the. Cavaliers and seven of the eight meetings since joining the ACC.
“The reason we're happy to get them is because it's a chance to beat the No. 1 team in the country and a team that has played well all year long,” Padgett said. “Look, last Thursday was tough, there's no denying that, but we haven't said, well, we've got to beat Florida State so we can get to Virginia. No, we just said we've got to beat Florida State so we can move on. Virginia is going to be ready for us, as they have been all year, and we just have to come out and just leave it all out on the court. We've played well against them both times, but that doesn't change the outcome. We came up short both times. We've got to be ready to compete for 40 minutes tomorrow against the best team in the country.”
The players all have different stories about the long night after Virginia pulled out that victory.
Ray Spalding said he called his mother and, “there wasn’t much sleep.” Nobody slept much. Darius Perry, who fouled a three-point shooter to prolong the game with 0.9 seconds left, said he stayed up about all night and watched game video.
“It was tough,” Spalding said, “but you can’t carry those negative thoughts. We had to move on, and I think we’ve done that.”
Quentin Snider said it won’t be about anything that happened last week, but about executing, and particularly rebounding and defense.
“We’ve got to guard their downscreens, especially their bigs,” Snider said. “They’re really good. We’re going to have to try and be better.”
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