The Louisville Cardinals fell to the Virginia Cavaliers 74-64 tonight in John Paul Jones Arena. I don’t think anyone is surprised that the #2 team in the country (#1 in the ACC) beat UofL in a tough road environment, especially since, if not for the Mangok Miracle Shot, UVA would claim victories in all the previous six contests. What might have surprised fans is that the Cards never really looked out of sorts like they had in previous games. Whether this is due to changes in personnel or coaching philosophy, who can say, but I’m willing to bet the latter had a lot to do with it.
The nature of this season and the mantra Coach Padgett keeps repeating is approaching each game as it comes, one at a time, and the microcosm of that is handling every game possession by possession. We saw that mentality pay off when the Cards rallied to beat FSU on the road and grind out an overtime win at Notre Dame. Staying focused on the next stop, the next smart pass and good shot, helped keep the Cards’ heads above water tonight. Indeed the team shot 50% from the field, hitting 44% of their 3-pointers and 100% of their free throws. They won the rebounding battle, though just barely. And they matched Virginia’s points in the paint after trailing in that category, and they did it against that crazy packline defense. The Cards lost this game because the Cavs shot the lights out (FG 54%, 3FG 56%) and turned the ball over half as often as we did.
There was a lot of good in this game and a lot that felt like pulling teeth. Yes, it was huge missed opportunity to get one of the best wins of the season in all of college basketball, but against #2 UVA on the road, the Cards had immensely more to gain than lose. The attitude in the locker room after the game was one of doubling down on protecting the home court and staying focused. Louisville gets its rematch with Virginia on March 3 at the Yum! Center, but first it takes on Florida State on Saturday as the Seminoles come to town looking for a little revenge of their own.
Some other quick takeaways:
- Trading 3s in the 2nd half and pulling to within 5 after being down 14, man…
- How UVA plays that kind of defense and is ranked so low in fouls per game is beyond me. Our guys were getting hacked. Ray got his lip busted. At one point Ryan got shoved away from the ball after a defensive rebound, and the ref behind the two players just sort of did a “calm down, children” gesture.
- I really like that Ryan McMahon no-look, fling-around-the-head pass. Most of the time, it works 100% of the time.
- Deng is still playing well and not trying too much hero ball, for the most part. VJ had a couple head-scratchers tonight, but seems to be more polished lately. Ray is still Ray, in a good way.
- Honestly, I’m not too unhappy. If not for the last couple minutes of the 1st half where things swung their way, this may have been a last-second shot or overtime game.
- My partner in crime and I have been preaching mindfulness this season. Padgett’s approach is actually very focused, thoughtful, and present in the here and now. The next step is to translate that mentality to the player each time the ball is in his hands.