For the third time in 5 years, the Cavalier hosted the Louisville Cardinals in the final game of the regular season at the JPJ. Virginia was playing for seniors Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key, but also with the small hope of securing the ACC regular season title should FSU lose. Given that the Seminoles had stumbled a bit down the stretch, losing to Clemson and escaping from South Bend, it was a very real possibility. All Virginia had to do was win.
A win is a win is a win. In a very different game from the first in Louisville, Virginia kept the pace in their preferred 55 ppg game range and erased a first-half 14 – 2 Louisville run and a 4 three-pointer in 4 minute span in the second half. And they did so while regressing to out-of-conference competence from beyond the arc.
Tomas Woldetensae’s disappearing 3-point shot. Woldetensae is still running hard around screens and it should be no surprise that he would generate extra attention from Lousiville, given that he torched them for 7 three-pointers a month ago. The outlook is hopeful, though, because Woldetensae shoots much better on the road than at home: 43% from 3 away from the confines of JPJ as compared to 31% at home. This was our last game at home. If he approaches 40% from downtown, we will have a good March. One positive for Tomas today: he had four steals. He has sneaky good hands.
Kihei Clark. Early in the first half, Louisville went on 14 – 2 tear to negate a 6 – 2 deficit and turn it into a 16 – 8 lead. Clark took over the game at that point and in the last 11 eleven minutes of the half, he recorded 9 points, 3 assists and a pair of rebounds. And while it wasn’t the game winner at the buzzer, Clark’s 3-point dagger with 30 seconds left was essentially the game winner. That’s now three games in a row that Clark has delivered the win in the waning seconds of the game. And this shot had all the moxie of Ty Jerome’s game winner at Cameron two years ago. This is a young man who is very confident with the ball in his hands…
… which can be a problem. Clark does lead the ACC in turnovers and an alarming percentage of them are coming very late in the shot clock. He had a pair of shot clock violations in this game. Too often, when the shot clock gets down to 10 -12 seconds, Clark gets locked in on his taking the shot and with the defenses completely collapsing around him, he dribbles into the lane and it’s basically a turnover. Kihei possesses superior vision, but not late into the shot clock.
Chris Mack. For the third straight game vs Virginia, the Louisville head coach has gotten a technical. Jordan Nwora committed a lane violation as Jay Huff was shooting a free throw, only Mack thought it was Diakite. It was pretty clear that it was Nwora who was guilty, and Mack should have had a clear look at the play because it was right in front of the Louisville bench. Mack went berserk, got the two-shot technical, and Clark sank both free throws. Along with Huff taking advantage of the second shot for the +1, it was in effect, a five-point play. That was a killer and UVa opened up a 31 – 27 lead at halftime.
Courtesy of announcer Cory Alexander, UVa has committed the fewest fouls of any team in Division I. This is astounding, and maybe my favorite fact of the Bennett Pack Line. The very first tenet of good defense is to move your body and not reach in. It doesn’t matter who we’ve had in the Bennett era, but these guys just do not foul. We had just a single foul in the first half and used a 7/7 free throw advantage to open up the halftime lead.
Defending the long ball with 3 seconds left. Miracles can happen. We all remember DeAndre Hunter’s winning shot vs Louisville three years ago. Louisville needed a miracle in this game and as Nwora stood under his basket, ready to in-bound the ball, he was uncovered. He throw a pin-point pass 96 feet to Steven Enoch, who out leapt Diakite for the ball, and fed Samuell Williamson for a perfect 3. Against Miami, in a similar situation, Bennett elected to have Huff defend the entry pass. It seems like a perfect option: no one is going to toss a perfect pass al the while trying to get it over the 7’1” Jay Huff.
Most wins over a top #10 team this season:— Danny Neckel (@DNeckel19) March 8, 2020
Ohio State: 4
Seton Hall: 3