The Louisville Cardinals did not lead in the second half of their loss at Virginia on Saturday. In spite of a late comeback, the Cards fell 57-54 in Charlottesville and will finish in a tie for second place in the ACC. Louisville drops to 24-7 overall and 15-5 in conference play. Virginia improves to 23-7 and 15-5.
Jordan Nwora led Louisville with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Steven Enoch scored 11 points with 4 rebounds. Ryan McMahon added 9 points and 3 assists. Louisville shot 37.3 percent from the field. The Cards finished with 14 assists and 12 turnovers.
For Virginia, Kihei Clark led the way with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. Mamadi Diakite added 17 points and 8 boards. Jay Huff added 11 points and 5 rebounds. As a team, Virginia shot 41.3 percent from the field. The Cavaliers finished with 7 steals, 5 blocks, and 7 personal fouls.
Louisville jumped out to an early 16-8 lead nearly nine minutes into the first half of this one. Virginia cut it to 20-17 with six minutes to play in the half before a Chris Mack technical foul with UVA already at the line allowed them to tie it 20-20. From there, Virginia controlled things and led 31-24 at halftime.
Out of the break, it was all UVA as the Cavs got out to a 14-point lead just over six minutes into the half. It was a 47-35 Virginia lead with 10:15 on the clock before Louisville stormed back to tie it at 51 in the span of five minutes. In the final 5:11, Louisville’s only points came on a Samuell Williamson three pointer with 0.3 seconds left on the clock. Virginia struggled offensively as well, but a Kihei Clark three pointer with 31 seconds remaining extended the lead to four points and essentially ended the game.
It is hard to get bent out of shape over a loss at Virginia. They’ve now won eight straight games and are one of the hottest teams in the nation. Louisville was given every chance to win this game though. After Coach Mack turned to a small ball lineup that successfully got the Cards back into the game, he stuck with that group and it ultimately cost them in the final minutes. Virginia was getting exactly what they wanted defensively as the game slowed down. Louisville got a bad whistle down the stretch, but it also did not score at all for five straight minutes. This is not a bad loss, but it is a missed opportunity that could cost Louisville next Sunday.
As things stand, other teams are putting themselves in position to jump over Louisville on projected seed lines. The Cards have lots of work to do next weekend if they want to be a top-3 seed in the NCAA tournament. We did see a fight today in the second half that was encouraging. That being said, this is not where you want to be entering postseason play. A big week awaits this team as all eyes turn to the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.
Louisville will receive a double-bye in the ACC Tournament as the 3-seed, setting up a potential 3rd matchup with UVA in the semifinals. The Cards will play in the quarterfinals next Thursday. The opponent is TBD.