No. 2 men’s basketball outlasts Louisville, 73-68

Cavaliers claim regular season ACC title with win over Cardinals

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Junior guard Ty Jerome was the leading scorer for Virginia with 24 points Saturday afternoon.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

The No. 2 Virginia men’s basketball team concluded its regular season Saturday with a 73-68 win over Louisville (19-12, 10-8 ACC) in John Paul Jones Arena, guaranteeing the Cavaliers (28-2, 16-2 ACC) the ACC regular season title for the second year in a row.

“To be able to do it in this league over three months, and almost 18 games, it's really a test of consistency, and they answered the bell,” Virginia Coach Tony Bennett said of his team. “This group, they paid the price in the off-season and their body of work speaks for itself.” 

When the Cavaliers and the Cardinals clashed earlier in the season, Virginia came away with a 12-point win. However, in the first half of Saturday's game, the game remained close with neither team getting a double-digit lead.

Both teams had a solid first half offensively, with the Cavaliers sinking seven three pointers. Junior guard Ty Jerome led Virginia in shooting in the opening half, notching 13 points. Sophomore guard De'Andre Hunter also made his mark on the scoreboard with eight points. As a team, Virginia shot 35.3 percent on all field goals and 41.2 percent from three, while turning it over just twice in the first half.

The Cardinals also had a strong half offensively, shooting 40.7 percent overall and 41.7 percent from three. Their first-half offense mostly came from sophomore forwards Jordan Nwora and Malik Williams, who had 10 and 9 points, respectively. 

Coming out of the locker room trailing the Cavaliers 36-33, Louisville opened the second half by taking a slight lead. Five minutes into the half, the Cardinals led 47-45. Louisville continued to hold on to a narrow lead at the 10-minute mark, as they went up 55-52. However, once Jerome put the Cavaliers ahead 63-62 from the free throw line, Virginia didn't trail for the rest of the game, finishing with the 73-68 win. 

“Our coaches preached that every possession matters every game and every point matters of the game,” Jerome said. “So, I guess late in the game, it’s the same mindset we have –– every possession matters.”

Overall, the Cavaliers shot 40.4 percent on field goals and 42.9 percent on threes. Jerome finished as the leading scorer for Virginia, picking up 24 points on 8-for-14 field goal shooting, while also adding six assists. 

“[Jerome] was so complete,” Bennett said. “He's feeling better and he is such a competitor. The crowd gave him some extra juice … and we needed it all. [Louisville] was ready to play … and we felt that. To see what [Jerome] did, all across the board, we needed everything."

Junior guard Kyle Guy was the only other Cavalier to score in double figures, recording 13 points. Sophomore forward Jay Huff was a perfect three-for-three from beyond the arc, adding nine points to the scoreboard. Meanwhile, a quiet second-half from Hunter had him finish out with nine points. 

Though he didn’t score in the game, senior center Jack Salt was widely appreciated in JPJ Saturday. Prior to the start of the game, he was for honored for his commitment to the program throughout his years. 

“I am so proud of him,” Bennett said of Salt. “I look at him and how many games he's been a part of … and I'm just so proud … He's a giver, through and through, and it's unbelievable what he does off the court as what he does on the court really speaks for itself.”

“We didn’t talk about the title, we talked about sending him out the right way, because of all he’s done for this program, all he’s done for each of us, and just who he is as a person,” Jerome added. 

On the defensive end, the Cavaliers slowed down Louisville’s three-point shooting, keeping the Cardinals to 36 percent from beyond the arc. Nwora and Williams finished as the leading scorers for the Cardinals, getting 19 and 12 points, respectively. 

Virginia will now prepare for the ACC Tournament in Charlotte, N.C. As the No. 1 seed in the tournament, the Cavaliers will have a double-bye, playing their first game Thursday against a to-be-determined opponent at 12:30 p.m.

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