Louisville CardFile: Virginia

When a team is mired in a debilitative slump, as are the Louisville Cardinals, losers of 4 of their last 5, 5 of 7, it is human nature to seek out a scapegoat.

Sorry, seasonal affective disorder, which strikes many during dreary, cold, and gray February, doesn’t work.

Nor, frankly, is it fair, as many have been wont to do for the L to UVa, to blame the zebras.

Yes, Saturday’s striped trio — mind you, a Final Four quality officiating crew — made two seriously egregious calls. Still, they are not the reason the Cardinals lost.

Of course, De’Andre Hunter double dribbled in the 1st, instead scoring a +1, after he was given a free pass, and fouled by Jordan Nwora. Jerry Heater almost Teed up apoplectic Chris Mack along the sidelines but held his breath. Nwora immediately answered with one of Louisville’s ten first half treys. And the Cards were uncomfortably ahead by ten at the break.

Yes, after intermission, on the possession subsequent to the one giving UVa a lead for the first time at 47-49, Nwora was incorrectly whistled for a charge. The Cavalier defender’s foot was visibly inside the circle. This time Mack’s wrath did not go unpunished. Hunter’s two charity tosses doubled the Cardinals’ disadvantage.

U of L didn’t recover from that one, never really challenging from that point on. But, as easily as the propensity to blame the refs may come, they were not why Louisville lost.

 * * * * *

There are any number of legitimate blameworthy realities.

Those are beside the many inherent flaws with this Louisville team, that have been discussed ad nauseam here and elsewhere that Cardinal fans gather. Lack of enough superior talent. Soft in the middle. Mack still adjusting to the rigors of the ACC. Thin and getting thinner bench, Etc, etc, blah, blah, blah.

Feel free to rehash them, if you must. I just don’t feel like going there yet again.

Most pertinent vis-à-vis Saturday’s loss to the visitors is: UVa is simply much better than Louisville. A marvelous, poised, mature, eerily effective contingent at both ends of the court, the Wahoos are better than just about everybody. They are certainly among the handful of squads capable of cutting down the nets the last Monday of the season.

U of L’s 1-3-1 was quite effective . . . before intermission. Virginia adapts. Once Tony Bennett was able to tweak his offense, not so much so in the 2d. The Cards scorched the scoreboard, draining a hard to imagine 10 triples in 16 opening stanza attempts, while Virginia was 0/11.

UVa tightened up its D after the half. U of L was 2/17. The Cavs didn’t need treys.

Where U of L really faltered throughout was underneath. The Cardinals were outpointed in the paint, 0-20 before intermission. The ineffectitude continued in the 2d, when those numbers read Virginia 18, Louisville 4.

Virginia manhandled U of L in the paint like Aunt Martha with the new Ronco Veg-O-Matic she got for Christmas. The visitors sliced, diced and turned the Cards into julienne salad.

The Cardinal four points in close came, not from either of the bigs, who provided literally nothing close to the hoop, but on two Christen Cunningham drives.

Cardinal fans want a culprit? How about that De’Andre Hunter fellow. Yes he’s the guy who ripped out U of L’s heart with that dagger trey last season. During the first half Saturday, after which the Cavs were down 10, Hunter only played seven and a half minutes due to foul trouble, still scoring 7. Never leaving the hardwood in the 2d, he was 6/6 from the field, 5/5 at the line.

 * * * * *

Here’s what happened in this latest of a string of Cardinal second half disappointments.

Louisville hit consecutive threeballs, the first by Nwora, the second by Steven Enoch, to hold a 47-43 lead.

Enoch’s came with 11:47 to play.

It won’t take long to share the sum total of U of L’s scoring the rest of the afternoon.

Malik Williams hit a free throw with 7:40 to go. Cunningham hit one of those aforementioned layups with 6:20 on the clock; the other with :49 to play and the battle long lost.

Five points in the last eleven and a half minutes. Th-th-that’s all folks!

UVa’s defensive authority is legitimate.

As is, let’s be brutally honest here, Louisville’s inability to close.

 * * * * *

This imperfect U of L team that has hit the wall against the tough February ACC schedule is the one many expected before the campaign began.

To use a quote I actually despise, but seems apropos: It is what it is.

That the Red & Black Faithful are disappointed is a testament to how surprisingly well the Cards have been overall.

I don’t think Louisville played all that badly Saturday. Other than in the pivot.

To paraphrase: They are who(m) they are.

 * * * * *

During the media stoppage at 9:39 of the 2d, the visitors had inexorably pulled within two at 47-45.

Not only in my game notes do I keep track of what’s happening on the court, but jot down an inner dialog with myself. I asked, “Who has the confidence to finish? UVa? U of L?” When the inevitable was clear, I scribbled a “Y” next to the former, an “N” next to the latter.

UVa is solid. U of L is shaken. UVa is there; the Cardinals have miles to go before they sleep restfully.

Next chance to heal: A scary journey to Beantown on Wednesday where U of L will combat inner demons and Boston College.

— Seedy K

2 thoughts on “Louisville CardFile: Virginia

  1. I agree that the refs didn’t cost us the game. However, although not as bad as the referring in the NCAAW, it is just amazing to me how the teams that are “supposed” to be all that get consistently favorable calls, while the underdogs get short changed. I used to think it was because of superior talent. Now, I suspect that the refs get caught up in thinking, “how is Louisville beating Duke by 23? Or, wow, why is UofL leading UVA by 10 at the half?”. Either an attitude of “I must be doing something wrong” takes over, or shamefully—maybe it will cost the league a #1 or #2 seed if things don’t change…

    I hope it is neither, but this years calls while we are clearly underdogs seem to indicate that we hardly ever/never get a break on a call. I know that one call was in the last 2 minutes and the other wasn’t—but I just wish the call on Ryan Mac wasn’t reversed and the call on Jordan N. was—we maybe(?) win both games with just those 2 whistles being changed.

  2. “That the Red and Black faithful are disappointed is a testament to how surprisingly well the Cards have been overall.” This sums it for me also. However, we won’t win another game if Enoch and Malik go another combined 1-16 from the field !

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