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Men’s basketball falls to No. 5 Louisville 80-73 in tight ACC battle

Woldetensae and Clark fueled a second-half comeback, but the Cavaliers couldn’t overcome the ACC frontrunners

<p>Junior guard Tomas Woldetensae was a major force on Virginia's offense against Louisville, sinking seven threes and scoring 27 points in the contest.&nbsp;</p>

Junior guard Tomas Woldetensae was a major force on Virginia's offense against Louisville, sinking seven threes and scoring 27 points in the contest. 

Despite an incredible second-half comeback, Virginia men’s basketball fell to No. 5 Louisville 80-73. The Cavaliers (15-7, 7-5 ACC) trailed the Cardinals (21-3, 12-1 ACC) by 14 points at  halftime but were able to take a 70-68 lead late in the second half. Junior guard Tomas Woldetense found his shot from behind the arc, sinking 7 of 10 three-pointers and leading Virginia on offense with a season-high 27 points. Sophomore guard Kihei Clark was also a major contributor, scoring 23 points and dishing seven assists. 

Louisville opened the game with an electric offense, as junior guard Darius Perry and junior forward Jordan Nwora combined for five three-pointers to lead 15-9 at 16:25. Meanwhile, Clark got things going for Virginia with five points in the first five minutes of play. Woldetensae also contributed four points in that stretch, as the Cavaliers tried to keep up with the Cardinals.

Feeding off the momentum, Nwora drained his third three of the afternoon, and senior forward Dwayne Sutton followed it up with a tough reverse layup off a rebound to extend Louisville’s lead to 20-11. However, Clark responded with a three at the 13:55 mark to keep Virginia within arm’s length of the ACC leaders. 

Senior guard Braxton Key and senior forward Mamadi Diakite scored their first points of the night in the ensuing minutes as the Cardinals continued to build their lead. Louisville’s hot start from the three-point arc allowed the Cardinals to work inside, as senior center Steven Enoch and freshman guard David Johnson each scored in the paint to give Louisville a double-digit lead at 33-23 with 6:32 left in the half. 

The Cardinals continued to stay hot from behind the arc, as graduate transfer guard Lamarr Kimble added his first three. Clark and Diakite were quick to respond, combining points to keep the Cavaliers in close range. In the remaining minutes of the half, however, Louisville ignited offensively, extending its lead with an 8-1 run. With three seconds on the clock, junior forward Jay Huff concluded the half with a dunk to leave the score at 44-30 heading into the break. 

The Cardinals were marksmen from three in the first half, shooting 53.3 percent from deep, enabling them to break down the Pack Line defense. The Cavaliers similarly shot well — converting half of their field goals — but their slow style of play prevented them from keeping up with an explosive Louisville offense. 

Virginia found its own luck from the three-point line coming out of the break, as Woldetensae and Clark sunk multiple quick threes to open the second half. Diakite and Key also jumped on the board to help fuel a 10-5 run and get the Cavaliers back within 10 points at 49-40. 

Virginia found much more success in slowing down Louisville in the second-half, cutting its initial 14-point deficit in half at the 11:55 mark with a tough finish by Clark as the Cavaliers continued to fight down 56-49. 

Woldetensae continued his three-point streak, adding three more and leading Virginia as it advanced on Louisville’s lead. Clark similarly continued to make an impact with his sixth assist and an impossible jumper from three-point range. With just 4:28 to play, the Cavaliers trailed by one point at 66-65. 

Following an Enoch dunk, Woldetensae sank yet another three to tie the game up at 68-68, after which Louisville Coach Chris Mack was issued a technical foul for arguing with the referee. Clark drained both free throws to give Virginia a two-point lead with 3:25 left. 

However, Virginia committed numerous fouls inside on the ensuing possessions, eventually allowing the Cardinals to stretch out to a 78-73 lead with 23 seconds left. As Virginia drove down the court, Clark found a wide-open Key at the right wing, and Key passed it around to a similarly open Diakite. However, Diakite missed the three, and Louisville eventually edged out the Cavaliers, 80-73. 

Up next for Virginia is a game against Notre Dame in Charlottesville at John Paul Jones Arena Tuesday. Tip-off between the Cavaliers and Fighting Irish is set for 9 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

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