ACC Basketball

The Cardinals Shock the Cavaliers

JOE ROBBINS/GETTY IMAGES

Okay, maybe it’s not that shocking. I mean, Louisville is a ranked team playing at home. Yet, when Malcolm Brogdon hit that three to give Virginia the one-point lead with 16 seconds to play, it was just hard to believe that the Cavaliers wouldn’t walk away a winner yet again.

Yet, with Terry Rozier doubled on the edge, it was Mangok Mathiang who found himself with the ball in his hands at the free throw line, less than 10 seconds to play. The Cardinals’ sophomore center would not take the shot, right? There was no way. This is a guy who lost his starting job weeks ago and had played more than 10 minutes just once since mid-February. He had made just two baskets in since February 1. He hadn’t taken a shot all game long. Yet, he put the ball up, it went in, ball game.

The Cardinals get a ton of credit. They played their most complete game in a long time. Montrezl Harrell again proved to be the heart of the team. Playing through some kind of pain, he scored 20 points and snatched 12 rebounds against a defense that doesn’t let big men score 20 points and grab 12 rebounds.

Quentin Snider’s scoring was key in the first half (11 for the game, 3-for-4 from deep), while Wayne Blackshear (9 points) was aggressive, taking the ball to the rim late in the game. Even Terry Rozier played well, refusing to force up too many bad shots, not even attempting a three, finishing with 11 points, seven boards, four assists and three steals. Louisville also out-rebounded Virginia (29-26) and forced more turnovers (13-10).

However, while I don’t want to take anything away from the Cardinals, this was not the Cavaliers finest two hours. They looked slow in their defensive rotation and both Anthony Gill and Darion Atkins were stuck in bad situations in the paint throughout. Of course everyone is allowed to have a bad game, especially if your Virginia who had little to play for, having already sealed up the top-seed in the ACC Tournament, while Louisville was trying to avoid playing an extra game.

For the game they shot 47%, as Brogdon lead the team with 17 points, thanks to four 3’s. He struggled inside though, hitting just 1-5 from inside the arc. London Perrantes dished out five assists, but turned it over four times.

Looking ahead, the loss means very little for the Cavaliers. Their resume is still much better than Wisconsin’s, so losing a two-point game on the road against a ranked team without their star player is not going to cost them a 1-seed. As long as they reach the ACC title game, I don’t see how they loss the 1-seed.

With the win, Louisville earns the 4-seed in their first ever ACC Tournament and thankfully get a double-bye. If all the top seeds hold serve, then the Cardinals would face North Carolina in the quarterfinals.

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