CRAWFORD | Louisville can't handle Virginia's "A" game, falls in ACC quarterfinals
The University of Louisville basketball team couldn't hang with hot-shooting Virginia on Thursday, falling 75-58 in the ACC Tournament. Now the Cards will await their NCAA Tournament fate.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (WDRB) – Louisville got Virginia’s “A” game for a good part of the afternoon in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinals at the Barclays Center.
Louisville, as a result, is returning home to ponder the “B” word while awaiting its NCAA Tournament fate. The Cardinals were Joe Lunardi’s “last team in” heading into Thursday’s conference tournament games, and to a man, felt they had done enough to earn an NCAA bid after Thursday’s loss. But it could be close, unlike the Cards’ loss to Virginia.
The Cardinals could’ve played better in their 75-58 loss to the Cavaliers, to be sure. But even if they had played better, while the margin might’ve been different, it’s tough to imagine that the outcome would have been any different.
For Virginia, it was an emphatic arrival in the postseason, and a reminder that while they’re still the highest-rated defensive team in the nation and capable of smothering you (they held Louisville to one field goal in the final nine minutes), they can break your heart with offense.
Pause. I read a little book recently called “Make Your Bed: Small Things That Can Change Your Life, and Maybe the World,” lessons from NAVY Seal training by William H. McRaven. He told a story about one episode near the end of training, with the sailors up to their necks in mud, morale running low, being taunted by superiors to climb out of the mud and give up. He could tell there were some down there in the mud who were weakening, then one guy started signing. Instantly, others joined in one by one.
The lesson is the influence that one strong guy (or woman) can have on a group.
I’m going to tell you this – Kyle Guy’s team wasn’t going to lose on Thursday. He went 3-for-3 from three-point range in the first half, made 4 of 6 from the outside, and his confidence was infectious.
When one guy gets it going like that, his teammates feed off it. And his opponents are demoralized by it.
“You can play great defense for 29 seconds and then they’ll do something, like Kyle Guy throwing in an off-balance 30-footer, there’s nothing you could have done better on that possession,” Louisville sophomore Ryan McMahon said. “You’re better off giving up layups because you give up fewer points and you wouldn’t have worked your tail off for 30 seconds. We know when we play them we have to have a next-play mentality, you have to forget about the past, they are going to make great shots and do things to frustrate you, they’re going to play overly physical and officials aren’t going to call anything because they have that reputation, just think about the next play. . . . I tip my cap. You have to give them a lot of credit. They played great today, but they needed to, because if they hadn’t we’d have beaten them.”
Louisville opened the game well enough, and led 11-7 at the first television timeout. Then Virginia went on a 20-5 run to take control. Guy had two three-pointers and eight points in the run, then hit another three with 3:17 left in the half to put the Cavaliers up 17.
At that point, I was on the phone with Delta to see about a trip home. Then Louisville did something you have to respect, especially against a really good Virginia team, it came back. One more time. The Cards hit back-to-back threes to finish the first half, and closed to within four at 56-52 with 8:55 left on a dunk by freshman Joran Nwora.
“We’ve been having adversity since the first day we got here,” Anas Mahmoud said. “Even these freshmen guys, they came in understanding that this program has a lot going on in it, before even all the FBI stuff broke out. That’s the thing about us, people don’t understand that no matter what happens you have to keep moving, keep playing basketball. That’s the best thing about this program right now.”
Guy led all scorers with 19 points, and Devon Hall added 14 points and five assists. De’Andre Hunter had 12 for Virginia, Mamadi Diakite 10 and Ty Jerome 11. The Cavaliers stressed rebounding before this game, and beat Louisville 34-25 on the glass, not allowing an offensive rebound until the final two minutes of the first half.
“They’re a heck of a team, and we kew that walking into it, ti was going to be a battle,” Hall said. “Every time we’ve played them it’s been a battle, and they’ve got some really talented players. . . . When we played at Louisville they kind of hit us in the mouth and we had to respond. The idea was to come out today and try to punch first.”
Padgett said his team could have done a few things better, but in the end, had to give credit to Virginia.
“There’s a reason they’re the No. 1 team in the country, and it was evident tonight,” Padgett said. “I’ve said it all year, I think their offense is very underrated, and they shot the ball well tonight. They exploited us in mismatch opportunities, and it seems like every time we got a little momentum we would just drop the ball out of our hands, they’d get it and lay it in, or they would hit a tough shot at the end of the shot clock, those kinds of things.”
Louisville got 16 points and 6 rebounds from Ray Spalding. Deng Adel finished with 13 and V.J. King had 11. The Cards shot 36.7 percent – despite making 9 of 21 threes -- to 52.5 percent for UVa, which made 7 of its 18 threes but outscored Louisville 42-16 in the paint.
For the Cardinals, they’ll return home and watch Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show together. They say they’re excited about playing in the tournament and making the field, but there may be a few anxious moments between now and then.
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