No. 9 men’s basketball returns home for Louisville matchup
Cavaliers look to bounce back from tough loss
No. 9 Virginia faces No. 6 Louisville Monday at John Paul Jones Arena in a matchup between two top ACC teams.
The Cavaliers’ (17-5, 7-3 ACC) next game comes on the heels of a tough 62-66 loss against unranked Syracuse.
Last season, Virginia waved goodbye to their national championship dreams when Syracuse overcame a 16 point deficit to upset the Cavaliers in the Elite Eight. Virginia’s most recent loss occurred in a similar fashion.
Virginia started off well — in the first half, the Cavaliers had 12 assists on 13 baskets, and were seven of 11 on threes. Virginia was ahead by 12 at halftime but failed to maintain their strong first half performance.
Syracuse opened the second half on a 19-2 run, as the Cavaliers couldn’t get the ball in the basket for over seven minutes. By that time, the lead had been cut to three. A couple Syracuse three-pointers gave the Orange the lead, which Virginia cut to one with 1:12 left but was unable to regain for the rest of the game.
Syracuse shot 14 of 19 in the second half for 44 points—only nine short of the average 53.4 points Virginia allows opponents per game.
The Cavaliers also finished the game with an unusually high 15 turnovers, which the Orange converted into 20 points.
“I wish we could have tried to be a little more aggressive,” head coach Tony Bennett said. “You could see some of the hesitant turners were costly, and then you add in their ability to score off the dribble and spread us out. It affected us.”
Virginia was unable to stop Syracuse graduate guard Andrew White III and freshman guard Tyus Battle, each of whom finished with 23 points.
Freshman guard Kyle Guy reemerged for the Cavaliers, scoring a team high 14 points and four of six from downtown. Senior guard London Perrantes also added 11 points and eight assists, while junior forward Isaiah Wilkins scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds.
Coming off two standout performances, freshman guard Ty Jerome scored nine points. Despite seeing fewer minutes in recent games, redshirt freshman forward Mamadi Diakite contributed eight points and four rebounds. However, junior guard Marial Shayok, who has consistently been putting up double digits since joining the starting lineup, finished with only two points on one of seven shooting.
This is not the first time this season the Cavaliers have given up a double digit lead. Virginia did the same in their loss to Villanova.
“Leads come and go,” Bennett said. “We’ve kind of shown that this year with this team.”
Virginia will have to put up a consistent effort throughout the entire 40 minutes of play if they hope to bounce back with a win against an efficient Cardinal team.
Louisville (19-4, 7-3 ACC) grabbed a comfortable 90-67 win at Boston College Saturday. Four Cardinals scored in double digits, including 19 apiece from starters sophomore forward Deng Adel and sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell, who each also shot seven of 10. From the bench, senior forward Mangok Mathiang added 16 points and freshman forward V.J. King put up 11 points.
Louisville’s most recent loss came against now No. 15 Florida State, who edged out a five point win in the matchup. However in the three wins since, the Cardinals’ margin of victory has been an average of 34.3 points.
The Cardinals are shooting 45.6 percent from the field on the season. Mitchell leads the team with 15 points per game, followed by junior guard Quentin Snider and Adel, who average 12.1 and 11.1 points per game respectively.
Virginia and Louisville last faced off in December, when then-No. 12 Virginia upset then-No. 6 Louisville with a score of 61-53. In the game, the Cavaliers got off to a strong start, leading by as much as 21 points in the second half. However, the Cardinals rallied a comeback to get within nine points.
In the game, Virginia forced 11 first-half turnovers from Louisville. Leading scorer Mitchell was held to seven points, while Snider and Adel only had eight. The game was representative of a strong collective offensive effort from the Cavaliers as well, seven of whom scored six or more points.
The two teams are currently tied for third place in the ACC. Grabbing the win is important for both conference standings and national rankings, which are key to both deciding seeding in the ACC tournament and the National Tournament in March.
“I think we know who we are, and we know our strengths and we know areas that we are a little bit vulnerable in,” Bennett said. “We just keep trying to work at those. Make the strengths stronger and the vulnerabilities less vulnerable.”
The game tips off 7 p.m. Monday at JPJ.