Louisville CardFile: Virginia

ccjoaniecardIt is very rare when the moment comes that I am able to recall specifically what I wrote about a Cardinal game from a previous season.

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.

Ball Game!!!

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




3 thoughts on “Louisville CardFile: Virginia

  1. athletes vs basketball players
    4 of the 5 kids Virginia had on the floor could dribble, pass and shoot and were aware of where their teammates were. They all were fundamentally sound. Their “5th” never handled the ball out on the floor. Neither Manghok or Johnson are a realistic threat to do much of anyhting when out on the high post other than set a pick, and both seem eager to release early on the roll to the basket and not free up their teammate for an open look. The number of times either of them have scored from their (jumper or drive) or passed for an assist can add up to maybe double figures over the season. At least Spalding and Mahmoud have had some assists from the high post. Aditionally, neither of the starting 4/5 combo can effectively try to gdefend away fom the basket, while their replacements with more length and agilitycan both do a better job of staying in front of a guard or wing and at least deter a jumper. Johnson and Mathiang are both most effective when hanging around on the low baseline out of the paint keeping the lane open and then using their strength going to the glass. Denny never had a player put into a position on offense where they were not adept. Virginia has skilled basketball players, some of whom are athletic; we have athletes working at becoming skilled basketball players who understand the game without having to “think about what to do”

  2. I agree with Ken. I had a close-up seat Wednesday. I could almost hear Cards players thinking the way that I, America’s worst all-time baller, used to, “Oh shit, I have the ball. Think quick, what should I do? Oh shit again, I waited too long, now there’s no good option.”

    Where was Levitch on Wednesday?

    1. Why did Q only get 23 min. of PT?
      I think you guys need to cut the players some slack. In practice, they work on what they need to do, both with the ball and without it. However, when the defense takes it away from you, it’s not always easy to come up with alternatives.

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