BROOKLYN – A week after Virginia rallied from a 13-point deficit in the second half to steal a win at Louisville in dramatic fashion, the two teams locked horns at the ACC Tournament on Thursday. This time, the roles were reversed.
The Cardinals chipped away at a 13-point margin at nearly the same point in the second half of the rematch they welcomed and had trimmed the deficit to 56-52 with 8:55 remaining. The Cavaliers slammed the door shut on any more similarities, though. The No. 1 seed ended the game with a 19-6 surge to win 75-58 and oust Louisville from this tournament and possibly the NCAA Tournament field next week too as the Cards will sweat out Selection Sunday on the bubble.
The victory pushed UVA into the ACC Tournament Semifinals for the fourth time in the last five years.
“I mean, they’re a heck of a team, and we know that walking into it, it was going to be a battle,” Cavalier senior Devon Hall said. “Every time we’ve played them it’s been a battle, and they’ve got some really talented players in [Deng] Adel and [Ray] Spalding and [Anas] Mahmoud and [Quentin] Snider, as well. We knew walking into it, it was going to be a battle, so I enjoyed it.”
If Virginia expected a battle, that’s exactly what it got, particularly in the early going. The two teams swapped the lead eight times in the first 8:05 and Louisville came out strong with three 3-pointers and a dunk for its first four baskets. Deng Adel and V.J. King knocked down the long shots, which propelled them to 13 and 11 points respectively in the final stats.
That wasn’t enough to put the Hoos in a deep hole, however, because Ty Jerome and Devon Hall answered on the other end. Jerome scored five points and dished two assists in those first eight minutes, while Hall hit two 3-pointers of his own and another basket for eight quick ones.
The exchanged blows spelled bad news for Louisville because slowly the Hoos started to strengthen on defense without slowing down much on offense. Over a span of 9:08, Virginia vaulted ahead with a 24-6 surge that was fueled on both ends. During that stretch, the Cardinals managed just 2-of-13 shooting while the Cavaliers went 10-of-16 shooting on their side.
To make matters worse for Louisville, four of UVA’s six misses in that early run were followed by offensive rebounds and baskets that led to 10 points. Virginia finished the game with a 34-25 edge on the boards and a 16-7 edge in second chance points.
“I think we prepared for that as a team,” said Louisville’s Ray Spalding, who registered 16 points and six rebounds. “Coach let us know what we needed to do to box those guys out, but I mean, it is pretty difficult boxing out a guy like that. Kind of frustrating, as well, when you’re trying to get position and then the guy reaches over and tips it out. It’s pretty good technique.”
Jerome and Hall kept their good starts going, but the cavalry quickly joined for the ride. Kyle Guy, Mamadi Diakite, and Isaiah Wilkins all got buckets during the run midway through the first half. Eventually De’Andre Hunter got in on the action too.
The Hoos ended up with five players in double figures as the team hit 52.5% shooting from the floor. Guy led all scorers with 19 points, the most he had posted since having 22 against Louisville in Charlottesville on Jan. 31. Hall added 14 points and five assists, while Jerome tallied 11 points and four assists. Hunter finished with 12 points and Diakite chipped in 10. Wilkins, meanwhile, had seven points as well on a day where Virginia’s offensive attack was too balanced to contain.
”For real?” Wilkins said when asked about the double-digit scorers. ”That’s cool man. That’s important. I feel like you can’t really rely too heavily on one person at this time of year, you’ve got to get contributions from everybody. That’s good to hear.”
“I think that’s our strong suit,” Hunter said. “We really don’t have a go-to guy. Everyone that’s on the court can probably score. Just having a balanced offense like that is tough to guard.”
AskLandis is a presenting sponsor of TheSabre.com’s postseason coverage this season! From downsizing and decluttering to staging and moving and storage, they do it all to help you take back your home. Give AskLandis a shot at your business for helping support our coverage of the Hoos.
Virginia Business Systems is a presenting sponsor of TheSabre.com’s postseason coverage this season! VBS has been in the document technology business since 1954 and provides “Fast Forward Document Solutions” throughout Virginia to large and small companies.
Louisville coach David Padgett said he thought that’s where the game got away from his club.
“We were hoping third time was a charm against these guys, but it obviously wasn’t the case,” Padgett said. “There’s a reason why they’re No. 1 in the country, and it was evident tonight. I said it all year long, I think their offense is very underrated. As good as their defense is, I think their offense is very underrated, and they shot the ball well tonight. They exploited us in a couple mismatch opportunities, and it seems like every time we got a little momentum, the ball just would drop out of our hands, they’d get it laid in, or they just would hit a tough shot at the end of the shot clock, those kinds of things.”
That’s exactly what happened when Virginia snuffed out Louisville’s surge to get back in the game. The Cardinals closed the first half on an 8-2 run to stay in touch on the scoreboard and then strung together an 11-2 run when they faced that aforementioned 13-point deficit midway through the second half. Adel jumpstarted the latter rally with two free throws, while Spalding slammed one home along with two free throws and Jordan Nwora added a 3-pointer and a dunk to the spurt.
That made it 56-52 in UVA’s favor when the top seed picked up two baskets from Diakite, two driving buckets from Hall, and a jumper from Jerome sandwiched around a Louisville timeout. Diakite poked away what looked like a defensive rebound to get a layup and then dunked on a Jerome assist. Hall muscled his way into the paint for two tough shots late in the clock and Jerome hit a free throw line jumper.
The Cavaliers locked in a game-ending stranglehold during that response as well, holding Louisville with just one field goal in the final 8:55 and that was a meaningless layup in the final 31 seconds of a 17-point game. The Cardinals ended up at 36.7% shooting for the game.
“Basketball’s a game of runs,” Wilkins said. “They’re going to make runs, we’ve just got to do our best to try to contain them and obviously not give them any open looks. You keep trusting what you’re doing. Mamadi came out and got two baskets back-to-back after that and that was important. Just trusting each other and knowing it’s a game of runs and that you’ve got to withstand.”
“I think a couple times they helped us out,” Bennett said. “There just were a couple hot bounces and they missed a few easy ones. But they made a nice run to cut it to four or six, and we answered, and we got enough stops and guys made some good plays. Because they played them three times, we know how they can pull up and hit shots and touch the paint. So I just think we tightened up a little more, and a majority of the game they did have to earn their baskets.”