Off the back of a rough loss on the road to N.C. State, the Virginia Cavaliers responded with a statement win over the Louisville Cardinals. Winning 64-52, the ‘Hoos were stout defensively early and withstood a Louisville run to take the comfortable victory.
Virginia holds on despite second half collapse
After starting the game hot on offense while simultaneously holding Louisville to end of the shot clock heaves, Virginia came back to earth late in the first and into the second half as the Cardinals clawed their way back into contention.
In many ways, the Cardinals played right into Virginia’s hands in the first. They settled for poor shots far too often offensively and — while they hit a few — suffered the consequences.
But, in the second half Louisville came alive while UVA struggled with sloppy offensive play. Jarrod West in particular put on a show in the second half as he totaled 14 points on 5-10 shooting in the loss.
Playing the full 40 minutes has been an issue for Virginia of late and that was on display against Louisville. Considering that the Cardinals are a middle of the pack ACC team and had lost four out of five entering this contest, it’s disappointing that the ‘Hoos didn’t put them away earlier.
Fortunately for Virginia, though, UVA did enough to stunt Louisville’s comeback and seal the victory as the ‘Hoos pulled away in the final minutes to take a much needed home win.
Virginia wins with balanced offensive attack
As UVA hasn’t had a consistent leading scorer in ACC play, the ‘Hoos stuck to the trend Monday night. With five players scoring nine points or more and four in double figures, balance was key for Tony Bennett’s squad in the win.
Before tonight it’d been 23 since days since Kihei Clark scored ten points in a game. Against Louisville, he got into an early groove as the California native wheeled and dealed his way to a nine point, four assist first half. Clark commanded the offense and kept it flowing early as the ‘Hoos built what would be an unassailable first half lead.
He continued his steady play in the second half with just two turnovers on the evening. Finishing with 15 points and five assists, Clark was the steady leader Virginia needed.
Alongside the senior point guard, Jayden Gardner was far more efficient against the Cardinals. He registered 14 points on 7-13 shooting on the outing and found his comfort zone in the midrange to provide the ‘Hoos with a number of easy baskets.
Meanwhile, Reece Beekman was quiet as a scorer but dished out 11 assists and grabbed 7 rebounds for an odd stat-line to go with his 2 points. Additionally, Armaan Franklin added 10 Kadin Shedrick scored 11 off the bench, and Francisco Caffaro put up nine.
Still no sign of the youth
After the atrocity that was Saturday’s loss to N.C. State, there was thought that Bennett may look to give some his young guns an opportunity versus Louisville. For the sake of getting those guys experience, providing a more unique offensive attack, and generally just resting the starters more, there’s validity wanting to see Taine Murray, Carson McCorkle, and Igor Milicic Jr. on the floor.
Instead, Bennett has stuck with the seven man rotation that he’s ironed out in conference play. That’s not unreasonable. He sees what he needs to everyday in practice. But, still, those guys have given this team things that the current rotation has missed and they are the future of this program.
Every win is significant
At this point in the season, every win is critical for Virginia. As time is running out on the Wahoos’ chances to build an NCAA Tournament resume, wracking up wins against teams like Louisville is an absolute must.
Especially considering just how tight the ACC is, winning a few games in a row can mean a world of difference just as a few losses can doom a team’s chances at conference contention or even a top-four ACC tournament seed.
With UVA’s win, the ‘Hoos now sit 6-4 in the ACC with an opportunity to make a run. Consistency will be critical for Virginia down the stretch, but this game was a step in the right direction.