Earlier this season, Louisville coach Rick Pitino called Virginia basketball his program’s kryptonite. The Cavaliers’ spell over the Cardinals continued on Monday night as the Hoos pulled away to a 71-55 victory at the John Paul Jones Arena.
UVA now owns a 5-1 mark against Pitino’s club since the school joined the ACC. Three of the last four wins for the Hoos have come by double digits, including the 16-point margin on Monday. The fourth game in this two-year span saw Virginia leading by as many as 21 points in the second half before a late surge cut the final margin to 61-53. The Wahoos have held Louisville to 59 points or less in all six ACC meetings.
The Cardinals have not lost any other games by double digits in their last 59 games. North Carolina was the last team other than Virginia to win by double digits, a 70-60 triumph back on March 12, 2015.
“They were undermanned today,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “They’ve been playing really good basketball without Quentin Snider and then the backup point guard and then they lose these guys, but they’re hard-fought games. We’ve played some of our best basketball against them, for whatever reason. I don’t know if there’s any specific thing. We just played good basketball and we knew after the Syracuse game, we had to come home and play because every game is significant at this stage in ACC play.”
Indeed, No. 4 Louisville came into the contest short-handed. Snider, the starting point guard, and Tony Hicks have missed time with injuries, while Mangok Mathiang and Deng Adel received a suspension for missing curfew Saturday. That left Vj King and Donovan Mitchell to carry a heavy load offensively and they delivered 24 and 16 points, respectively.
That was not enough to outlast the No. 12 Cavaliers. The hosts trailed 34-32 at halftime, but turned things up across the board after intermission. They cut the Cardinals’ shooting percentage in half, dominated the glass, and upped the offense as well in the second half. Louisville shot 46.7% (14-30) in the first half, but only 25% (6-24) afterward. Mitchell made 4 of 10 attempts in the first half, but only 2 of 7 in the second half.
In the rebounding category, Virginia held a 16-13 edge at halftime but eventually dominated the category 38-19. Isaiah Wilkins led the effort there with 11 rebounds as part of his first career double-double. He also added 13 points and 5 blocked shots. Jack Salt chipped in 6 boards with 4 points, while Marial Shayok had 5 boards with 6 points.
“I had no idea I had it, I just found out in the locker room,” Wilkins said of the double-double. “I was hype and started jumping around when I found out. I didn’t think I had the rebounds for it.”
With the defense and rebounding taking control of the flow – Mitchell said Virginia “out-toughed” Louisville after halftime – the game turned into a blowout when the Hoos got going offensively. They started the half with a 22-5 surge by making 6 of 9 shots and 7 of 7 free throws, which helped overcome 4 turnovers in the same stretch. By the end of the half, UVA shot a sizzling 59.1% (13-22) from the field and a perfect 100% (12-12) from the line.
That helped create a balanced scoring effort from the Cavaliers. Darius Thompson joined Wilkins in double figures with 10 points. He also tallied 4 rebounds and 5 assists in 20 minutes. Thompson had not picked up that many minutes since playing 21 in the win at Notre Dame. Devon Hall added 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists, while Mamadi Diakite scored 6 points in 16 minutes.
The big night, though, belonged to London Perrantes. He led the way with 18 points to go with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He moved into 43rd place on the all-time UVA scoring chart with 1,074 points to pass Gene Engel (1961-63). Perrantes made 5 of 12 shots and 6 of 7 free throws. That set the tone at the line where Virginia made 18 of 20 freebies.
“He’s got a good feel, as I’ve said many times, so I trust him,” Bennett said. “I felt we needed to try to attack and touch the paint and be assertive and make the right plays from there. He had a nice feel and he did draw some fouls, which was good. We’ve had those dry spells where we haven’t been able to get to the line so that was big tonight. To be able to cash in and make 18 of 20 is obviously important.”
“It’s just the way it happened,” Perrantes said of playing more aggressively. “I hit my second shot, a three, and obviously, everyone knows that I can shoot the ball so after that I’m just taking what the defense gives me. There were some opportunities to get to the paint and I got to the free throw line because of that.”
The Louisville win wrapped up four games in days for the Hoos. They get a break in the schedule this week before a rematch with Virginia Tech on Sunday in Blacksburg. Virginia won the first meeting 71-48.