No. 12 men's basketball overwhelms No. 4 Louisville, 71-55
Cavaliers beat the Cardinals for second time this season
No. 12 Virginia kept No. 4 Louisville’s offense at bay in the second half to pick up a 71-55 victory in a Big Monday matchup. The Cavaliers (18-5, 8-3 ACC) overcame the Cardinals (19-5, 7-4 ACC) for the second time this season and moved to 5-1 against Louisville since the Cardinals joined the ACC.
“We’ve played some of our best basketball against [Louisville] for whatever reason,” coach Tony Bennett said. “I don’t know if there’s any specific thing. We just played good basketball, and we knew after the Syracuse game we had to come home. Every game is significant at this stage in ACC play.”
Virginia started off hot with a 10-3 lead, but the Cardinals stuck around, scoring back to back transition points and cutting into the lead to make the score 10-7. Louisville’s offense continued to move along, and after a 7-0 run the Cardinals had stretched their lead to 21-16 by the under-eight timeout.
Freshman forward V.J. King led the Cardinals in scoring with 24 points, trying to make up for some absent Louisville personnel. The Cardinals were missing senior forward Mangok Mathiang and sophomore forward Deng Adel due to suspensions, and junior guard Quentin Snider and graduate guard Tony Hicks were sidelined with injuries.
“We knew they were hot coming in and they had some injuries, but they were still playing extremely well,” senior point guard London Perrantes said.
The Cavaliers continued their tendency to commit turnovers from their last matchup with Syracuse, and committed seven turnovers in the first half and finished with 14 turnovers on the night.
“I challenged our guys after Syracuse — I talked all about the defense,” Bennett said. “I said you can control the position you’re in — you can control your effort. You can’t always control turnovers.”
Sophomore center Jack Salt gave the Cavaliers a strong finish at the end of the first half, scoring a quick layup to cut into the Cardinal lead and make the score 34-32 going into the intermission.
“[Salt] gave us a lot of energy,” Perrantes said. “That’s what we need from him. We needed energy, we needed those offensive rebounds. That definitely gave us an energy boost going in.”
The strong finish continued into the second half, as the Cavaliers appeared to be rejuvenated, and shook off any dust from the weekend’s loss against Syracuse.
“Momentum is a funny thing, it’s hard,” Bennett said. “Our guys knew they had to play with a sense of urgency and I love the way they adjusted, they figured out what they needed to do defensively and offensively with the pace they played. It wasn’t anything I said. I just reminded them of what that program is founded on.”
However, it seems that Bennett had quite an impact on his team.
Perrantes opened the scoring in the second half with style, making a shot from behind the arc to allow the Cavaliers regain the lead and make the score 35-34. Perrantes was strong for the Cavaliers throughout the contest, and led Virginia with 18 points.
Virginia continued to click offensively, and the Cavaliers allowed the Cardinals to go just six of 24 — just 25 percent — in the second half. The Cavalier defense was stingy and gave the Cardinals few opportunities — outrebounding Louisville 38-19.
“Having energy throughout the arena and throughout the team is huge on the defensive end,” Perrantes said. “It helps us play a lot better defensively. Coach Bennett got us fired up during halftime … We needed all we could, and we got it.”
Louisville’s frustration kept building with just under three minutes to play, as a rejection by redshirt freshman forward Mamadi Diakite led to an emphatic dunk by junior guard Hall, adding to the highlight reel and making the score 66-48.
Virginia continued to add to their lead, with Wilkins rounding out the Cavaliers’ scoring with a layup and a free throw to make the score 71-53. The Cardinals added on a late jump shot to make the final score 71-55.
Wilkins finally earned his first career double-double, recording 13 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. Junior guard Darius Thompson followed behind in the double figures with 10 points, and Hall added nine.
“I looked at him to bring [energy] out of everybody,” Perrantes said. “[Wilkins] is that guy for us. The way he plays — blocks shots, gets rebounds, dives on the floor — it's huge. Him getting a double double — I’m not surprised. I’m glad he got it today though.”
The Cavaliers will try to gather some much-needed energy after a busy weekend before taking on in-state rival Virginia Tech. Virginia travels to Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg Sunday, and tipoff is at 6:30 p.m.