The Virginia Cavaliers came up just short in a thriller at Louisville to end the 2014-2015 regular season. After a cold-blooded Malcolm Brogdon three gave the Hoos a one-point lead with 9 seconds to go, but a Mangok Mathiang jumper gave the Cardinals a 59-57 win at the KFC Yum Center. Virginia finishes the year at 28-2 (16-2 ACC).
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The dramatic finish didn't seem likely at the start of the game, when Virginia once again came out sluggish. The Hoos started off in a 19-5 hole, as Louisville came out shooting red-hot, and UVA struggled to hold on to the ball. But the team slowly scrapped back, cutting the lead to 5 at halftime and taking the lead 5 minutes into the second half.
A back-and-forth finish began with an 8-0 UVA run to tie the game with four to play. Consecutive Louisville baskets put them ahead 56-52, but two Malcolm Brogdon free-throws and a key defensive stop set up Brogdon's clutch corner three. Louisville's last possession began with 9 seconds on the clock; they seemed out of sorts, and were unable to get the ball to their playmakers. But Mathiang found himself open around the free-throw line and drilled his only shot of the game.
In contrast to the first matchup between the new conference rivals, in which Virginia turned the ball over just once, UVA lost the ball 13 times, on 24% of its possessions. Even the normally steady London Perrantes had 4 TOs, which tied his career high. The Hoos also badly lost the battle of the boards, especially during a first half in which Louisville rebounded half of its own (rare) misses. While Louisville's hot shooting didn't carry over into the second half, they depended on Montrezl Harrell, who finished with 20 points on 7-14 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Cardinal defense really focused on denying the interior, keeping Anthony Gill, Darion Atkins, and Mike Tobey from being major factors. The trio was efficient (combining to shoot 11-16), but struggled to find their shots. Darion Atkins did stroke a couple mid-range jumpers to finish with 10 points and 7 boards. Gill had 9 and Tobey 5.
Malcolm Brogdon led the Hoos with 17 points on 5-13 shooting, including 4-8 from behind the arc. Perrantes had 7 points and 5 assists, while Nolte had 6 on 2-4 three-point shooting.
For the second consecutive season, Virginia finishes 16-2 in ACC play; both times, their losses included a mid-season defeat to Duke and a road loss in the team's finale against their designated rival (UMD last season). Hopefully, the similarities continue into the ACC Tournament.
UVA will play either Clemson or Florida State on Thursday at noon in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. Looking ahead, the Hoos are firmly in line for a #1 seed in the NCAAs, and are still in good shape to be in the East region. As Joe Lunardi noted after the game, "Virginia's gap from every team not Kentucky was so large before, and a one-basket, shorthanded loss at Louisville won't change that."