But I do clearly remember how I described what is the worst U of L loss in the Yum! Era. Which was last season’s 16 point beatdown, 47-63, at the hands of last night’s victor UVa.
I said of that loss that the Cardinals had been schooled by the Cavaliers.
UVa’s game is so fundamental, so befuddling in its unique complexity to the young Cards, that it was a teacher/ pupil situation.
U of L fared even worse against the Cavaliers in Charlottesville, again failing to break the 50 mark and falling by 22.
Given last night’s seminar, another lecture by the visiting profs, it’s obvious there are still many lessons for U of L to learn. Certainly by Rick Pitino, who hasn’t been able to figure out how to attack or defend UVa’s system. And by the players who were confused the entire 40 minutes. Though thanks to some inner summoned grit, they closed the gap to something respectable by the final buzzer.
Truth: Since Louisville joined the ACC, Virginia has owned the Cards. Tony Bennett and his various squads are now 4-1 in these encounters, and but an improbable Mangok Mathiang fluke of jump shot season before last away from being undefeated against the Cards in league play.
The visitors tallied on four of their first five possessions, including a couple treys. While the Cards turned it over twice, missed two layups and a jumper and scored just a Donovan Mitchell fast break deuce.
That 2-10 deficit increased to 4-16, seven and a half minutes in.
Louisville narrowed the gap to six at 14-20 with 7:49 to play before intermission.
And never got that close again the rest of the way.
Virginia ran circles around the Cards. Literally.
With the ball, the Cavaliers run these little curlicue loops around the elbows of the lane that made the confused Cardinal defenders look like six year olds at recess, chasing each other around the playground. When U of L was in possession, UVa would hedge out on the motion weave, ever stopping the ball above the key, and pushing the Cardinals out of any flow and rhythm they might hope to generate.
Louisville was down 15 at the break, 21-36. Two stat numbers tell the whole tale.
0 assists. 11 turnovers.
The Cardinals notched their first assist on the opening possession after intermission, on a Mango to Deng Adel give and go.
But, Virginia again scored on four of its first five possessions, increasing its margin to 18, and eventually to 21 at 35-56 with 9:03 left.
It appeared that UVa had sucked the soul out of Louisville. Twice, once in each half, there was a loose ball on the court rolling toward the UVa end. Both times, a Cavalier or two hustled after it, while Louisville players just stood like statues and watched.
From then on, to its credit, Louisville displayed some heart and did not quit. U of L finished with an 18-5 “flurry.” Yet any hope that U of L might actually come all the way back — slim and frankly implausible as that premise would be — ended at roughly the three minute mark.
A Tony Hicks drive and score cut the deficit to 9 at 48-57. Louisville’s defense forced a shot clock violation. But Anas Mahmoud missed from short range — a propensity that plagued U of L time and again all evening — and Kyle Guy scored on the following possession.
(Remember Guy’s name. He’s the frosh with swagger and the hair bun from Indy, the Cavaliers’ second leading scorer. He’s going to be a thorn in the Cards’ side for seasons to come. Louisville fans are going to hate him in a Grayson Allen kind of way.)
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I’m not sure I can call this a throw away game. But, for some reason, the loss doesn’t bother me as much as it arguably should.
Tony Bennett, who is undefeated in ACC openers, simply has Pitino’s number. RP and his players always get flummoxed when on the hardwood with the Cavaliers.
No Cardinal scored in double figures last night. Only one Cavalier did, Devon Hall with 10. But’s the UVa’s modus operandi. London Perrantes is the team’s only double figure scorer on the year, with his 10.0 ppg average.
Whatever Louisville game plan was fashioned didn’t work. The Cardinals on the court and their mentor on the bench never adjusted. Louisville, as it is said, had no answers.
Interesting, to me anyway, is that the victory vaulted Virginia to the top spot in Ken Pomeroy’s revered analytical ratings. While Louisville remains in the #8 spot this morning, with its D still ranked as the best in the land, and the Cavaliers right behind.
Coulda fooled me. Those computer analytics don’t align with the eye test.
Anyhow, Virginia is a fascinating team to watch. You just don’t want your favorite squad to have to play them. Which, unfortunately, U of L has to do, visiting Charlottesville in February for a return match.
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Next up the Cardinals, IU in Indy on New Year’s Eve.
It’ll be two wounded foes, each looking to avoid a losing streak. The Hoosiers fared even worse than U of L last night, losing to mediocre Nebraska (7-6) in Bloomington in its conference opener.
— Seedy K