The oddsmakers advised before the game that Virginia is a ten point better team than Louisville.
So it came to pass.
Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers are indeed a better offensive team than Louisville, a better defensive team, more focused and mature.
Ten points better all around.
In recent years, I’ve taken to using the same word to describe UVa’s performance when outmatching the Cards, so clearly superior has their play been. The Cavaliers “schooled” Louisville.
But, while UVa was clearly the better team last night, easily one of the best in the land as the college hoops season begins the turn for home, that whole teacher/pupil analogy doesn’t resonate for me this time around.
The Cardinals did what these Cardinals do against Tony Bennett’s squads. They got impatient, often dribbled too much, failed any number of times to make the extra pass, fell prey to the wiles of UVa’s feisty D by moving the ball to dead end alleys from which there was no escape, failed to get the rock to the hot shooter, lost attention to the shot clock and turned it over.
Yet, U of L hit 50% from the field (25/50) including 8/18 threes. And grabbed a rebound more than the home team, 26-25, matching them on the offensive glass at 6 apiece, allowing no second chance Cavalier points. They made all their chances at the charity stripe, but it was only six.
So it took a big effort by Virginia to win. 54% shooting, and 9/16 from beyond the arc.
The difference was turnovers.
Louisville gave it up 13 times; UVa but 7. However, the victors tallied 22 points off those Cardinal mistakes, compared with the 6 U of L countered off Virginia errors.
* * * * *
Deng Adel hit a trey with 4:20 to go, cutting UVa’s once 14 point advantage to 60-54. After a U of L timeout, bunless Kyle Guy, whom I dubbed last season “the Guy we’re going to hate for four years,” hit a deuce. But that was immediately matched and more with a Ryan McMahon three.
The deficit was only 5. And Guy turned it over, falling to the hardwood with the ball while trying make a hard cut.
Ray Spalding was baited by Virginia’s clever defensive scheme into launching a bad three from the top of the key, when McMahon was open to his right. Ty Jerome drained a long ball, then another, and Virginia was out of harm’s way.
Yet I’m disinclined to go coulda woulda shoulda.
If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.
As feisty as the Cards were, as much as they didn’t give up, this U of L team, a gang that still hasn’t revealed if it’s a first weekend out in the Dance or capable of sneaking into the Regionals, wasn’t going to conquer the Cavaliers in Charlottesville.
Yes, there are moments you can point to. Anas Mahmoud’s two traveling calls while trying to post up late. Dwayne Sutton’s missed trey in the 1st, another time when McMahon was open. Adel’s and VJ King’s regression to hero ball from recent outings when they looked for teammates. Etc, etc. You can do things against Boston College and Wake Forest you can’t against Virginia.
It wasn’t going to happen.
Louisville did some good things. They handled Virginia’s hedge on ball screens pretty well early on. Sometimes reversing the ball to an open Cardinal, sometimes waiting for the double teamer return to his man. They were also patient, though the incessant nature of the pack line finally wore them down.
The Cards get another shot at UVa at the Yum!. It is a winnable game.
But not as important as holding serve against Florida State, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and North Carolina at home. And taking care of business at Pitt, and stealing one or both at NC State and Virginia Tech. A win in Cameron Indoor is unfathomable for this group at this juncture.
This gang of Cardinals isn’t going to be struck mature. Louisville has flaws.
The question is whether this Louisville team will continue to grind, clean up stuff and approach its potential?
Next: A rematch with the Seminoles.
— Seedy K