ACC Basketball

Virginia’s Defense Dominates the Cardinals

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough enough to defeat Virginia’s defense, but watching Louisville try to take on the Cavaliers with just four players was brutal at times. No, Pitino didn’t get ballsy and play a man down. It just the Cardinals only have three good scoring options, four on a good day (like tonight) and I knew going in that Tony Bennett’s defense would crush it.

Virginia walked into halftime with an amazing/awful (depends on what you think of defensive battles in basketball) 24-13 lead, behind a surprising source. Center Mike Tobey was unstoppable early, scoring nine of the Cavaliers’ first 11 points, yet the Cardinals kept it close, tying it at 13 after a Montrezl Harrell dunk at the 10:33 mark. You might have thought we were able to see a high scoring game. You would be wrong.

Louisville would end up not scoring another point the rest of the half. You read that right…the Cardinals went 10:33 without a basket. In fact, if you add in the second half, the scoring drought lasted a stunning 12 minutes. Again, that’s 12 minutes without a single point.

In the second half, the Cardinals started to hit some mid-range numbers by Terry Rozier and Chris Jones, yet they couldn’t catch up despite the fact the Cavaliers shot 33% from the floor, 14% from three and most importantly, Justin Anderson left the game with a hand injury.

Oh here is why:

To say that Pitino’s full court press was ineffective would be a gross understatement. However, anyone who has watched Virginia this year won’t be surprised. This is what they do, or rather, this is what they don’t do (3rd in the nation in turnover % according to Ken Pom).

Yes, they are known for their defense, but an efficient offense is a good defense. They move the ball around so much, with every player touching the ball in a possession and then with 10 seconds to go, find an open guy for a basket. Even if they don’t make the shot, the time taken hurts a team like Louisville looking to run.

Like I mentioned up top, the Cardinals only got scoring from four players, led by Rozier’s 16, but he needed 16 shots to reach it. Add in Chris Jones, Louisville’s guards hit just 10-30 from the field. Seven different players scored for Virginia, with four breaking double digits, led by Malcom Brogdon (15 points).

Louisville falls to 19-4 and 7-3 in conference, falling into a tie for fifth with Duke. For Virginia, it’s too early to say they wrapped the ACC regular season title up, but they might have wrapped up the ACC regular season title. They have a two-game lead in the loss column against everyone that matters and outside of a rematch with Louisville to end the season, they’re done facing the beasts of the ACC. Someone will need to pull off an upset (maybe NC State next) and I don’t see that happening.

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