The Virginia Cavaliers made the most of their Senior Night, capping a perfect 15-0 season at JPJ with a dominant 68-46 win over Louisville.
|Getting to the line (FT Rate)||76.9||24.1
Here are three takeaways:
1. It truly was a night for seniors
Fourth and fifth-years scored 56 of the team's 68 points.
Mike Tobey was the obvious story of the night. His 20 rebounds weren't just a career high, but more than he grabbed the entire month of February. He hadn't broken 7 all season. Just 42 other D1 players have recorded 20+ rebounds this year (and I doubt any of those games were under 60 possessions). And it wasn't a coincidence, as Tobey didn't just bring intensity, but sustained it for all 25 minutes he played. The picture up on top of this article was a suddenly commonplace thing for Tobey to do - go after and fight for basketballs. He was active all night, scoring 15 points on 5-8 shooting, including this putback slam, and adding 5 more at the free-throw line. When he drained an off-balance prayer as the shot clock expired, it was clear it was his night. My first thought was "If only he'd played like that all season!" The good news is that UVA went 24-6 anyways, and the most important games still await.
Nolte had his moments as well, draining threes on consecutive possessions to extend an early UVA lead that stood all night. He played solid defense in his season-high 16 minutes of play.
And Brogdon and Gill were, well, Brogdon and Gill. Malcolm overcame a slow start to lead the team with 17 points, as he shot just 4-11 from the field (and missed all 4 threes he took), but succeeded in getting to the line. And Anthony Gill showed that his slump is really over, finishing with 15 points on 4-6 shooting.
2. Louisville fouled like crazy, and UVA took advantage
Virginia's .77 FT/FGA was more than twice its season average and by far its best of the year, as the Cardinals managed to commit 27 fouls in a 59 possession game. Getting to the line has been UVA's main offensive weakness (the team ranked 295th in the nation in that stat). But tonight they brought the perfect level of aggressiveness and control against a Louisville defense that couldn't stop fouling.
UVA took 30 free-throws, making 24. Brogdon was the main beneficiary, shooting 11 free-throws (though he missed 2, snapping a 42 free-throw streak of makes). And Tobey and Gill had 8 apiece.
UVA shot well from the field, and did a solid job on the boards too. But the free-throw advantage made it a laugher, especially came in handy when the Cardinals attempted to cut the lead back into single digits in the second half. (Chinanu Onuaku fouling out seemed to be the final dagger for the Cardinals).
One offensive downside: UVA finished with 13 turnovers. Brogdon had 3, and London Perrantes added 5, matching his career high. Louisville's pressure defense does force turnovers, but tonight the trade-off (a barrage of free-throws) hurt them.
3. Virginia's defense has Louisville's number
The Hoos have held four teams under .8 PPP this year: Morgan State (330th in offensive efficiency) Boston College (327th), Louisville (50th), and Louisville again. The Hoos smothered Louisville at JPJ last season too, though the Cardinals edged past 1 PPP in last year's game at the Yum! Center.
Malcolm Brogdon continued his practice of shutting down the opposing team's best player, as Damion Lee finished with 9 points on 3-13 shooting. Donovan Mitchell was the only one who really played well for Louisville; he got into double-figures (11), as he capitalized off 6 offensive rebounds, but only shot 3-10 from the field.
UVA's D is peaking at the right time. After a shaky defensive start, the Hoos head into postseason play ranked 7th in the nation on KenPom in adjusted defensive efficiency (and 9th on offense. I guess the offense isn't better than the defense after all).