At long last, Louisville gets some payback against Virginia

Lead Photo by Mike DeZarn

Coach Tony Bennett’s team may have played its best game of the year in the loss to the University of Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

No one doubted that Virginia would be able to overcome an early 15-point deficit in the game, least of all the members of the University of Louisville basketball team. 

Jordan Nwora would lead Louisville with 22 points, including four 3-pointers. (Mike DeZarn photo).

Most in the crowd of 19,250 at the KFC Yum! Center knew it was going down to the wire. Many having witnessed those incredible mini seconds two seasons ago when Virginia overcame a four-point lead for an unbelievable win at this very location.

Virginia had defeated the Cardinals nine straight times since the 2015 season and was a consensus pick to win this game. UofL’s last win in the series came on March 7, 2015, on a highly unlikely shot from Mangok Mathiang at the buzzer. Even Mathiang still can’t believe he made that shot.

Louisville having to play almost perfect basketball to end that losing streak, finally beating Virginia 80-73. Probably one of the best games in college basketball this season, with only 12 combined turnovers. The Cardinals committing only five of them. One more could have been a crusher.

Despite its 15-6 record coming into the game, Virginia had the best defense in the nation, holding opponents to 50.6 points per game. The Cavaliers were third in fewest fouls with only 13 per game. UofL would put up 80 on them and go to the free throw line 24 times.

“Virginia is a very smart team,” said Coach Chris Mack. “They always seemed to know exactly how to handle everything we attempted. They are a good team and will only get better.”

UofL needing every one of the eight 3-pointers it made in the first half because the Cardinals would make only one more in the final 20 minutes. The Cavaliers were making 11 of their own, including eight 3-pointers in the second half.

Virginia would get the lead on two free throws following a technical foul on Coach Chris Mack following a questionable possession call. UofL would tie the game on a jumper by David Johnson.

Couldn’t have come at a better time  with offense having stalled. UofL would reclaim the lead for good on Steven Enoch’s two free throws at the 2:47 mark. Johnson would add three free throws while Louisville was making its last 10 points from the foul line.

Next up at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, a team UofL edged by only four points at home two weeks ago.

Louisville fans would not be disappointed on Saturday, expecting the nine-game losing streak to come to an end. (Photo by Mike DeZarn)

 

Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.