Nice bounceback effort for Virginia in Big Monday win
Whatever Virginia coach Tony Bennett said to his team on the trip back from Raleigh, let’s hope somebody taped it, so we can transcribe it and use it again later.
“I mean, we talked about just what it would take, and you always appreciate the opportunity, and you got a chance to respond after a hard, hard game. And again, NC State played well, we didn’t play the way we needed to be in that game. So tonight, they touched on it and sustained it pretty well, how they have to play,” Bennett said after his team had rebounded from its ugly loss at NC State on Saturday with a nice effort in a 64-52 win over Louisville on Monday in JPJ.
Virginia hadn’t looked as bad as it had in that 77-63 loss to the Pack in quite a while. State hit 12 threes, had 16 makes at the rim, and never led by less than double-digits after a 25-6 run late in the first half put the Wolfpack in control.
It was Virginia going on a big run to start things out on Big Monday. The ‘Hoos led 27-8 more than 14 minutes in, forcing Louisville to miss 14 of its first 18 from the field, as the Cardinals struggled on the other end to figure out how to stop the UVA mover-blocker offense.
“The three cutters that they run throughout the game on offense cut really hard, and you have to be more determined to win the chase battle, if you will,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “We only had a short time to prepare, just like Virginia did, but it’s one thing to tell them, and it’s one thing to execute it, and we executed it much better after we got in such a deficit. You have to be ready to chase, you have to be able to shortcut, you can’t melt on screens, and we didn’t learn that until we were down 25-8.”
Mack would eventually slow Virginia down with a 1-3-1 and 1-1-3 matchup zone, but Bennett eventually figured out ways around the zone with crisp passing – UVA finished with 20 assists on its 24 made baskets on the night, 11 from point guard Reece Beekman, who controlled the game despite putting up just two shots from the field.
“Box score doesn’t determine how Reece plays,” said power forward Jayden Gardner, who had 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting and five rebounds.
Five of his seven makes were assisted by Beekman.
“Reece is a true point guard. He is always looking for his teammates, and when he’s able to get them shots he takes them,” Gardner said. “Like in the last couple of games, he’s had wide open threes, he’s taking them, and he’s making them. So, Reece affects the game in different ways, not just scoring the basketball.”
It’s classic Tony Bennett basketball when the best guy on the court has two points in the box score, and the opponent has to hit a meaningless three with 26 seconds to go to get over 50.
“There was some good Virginia basketball out there, hard offense, tough defense, didn’t give up easy looks, and for the most part, were connected again,” Bennett said. “Louisville was a little bit off their game, but I hope we had something to do with it, I sure do. And you just be ready every time out in the league with how you know jammed up it is.”
The win lifts Virginia to a 12-8 mark overall, and 6-4 in the ACC. The jam at the top of the conference standings has seven teams within a game of the two teams tied for first, Florida State (14-5, 6-2 ACC) and Miami (13-5, 6-2 ACC).
Louisville fell to 11-9, 5-5 with the loss, the fifth for the Cardinals in their last six after a 4-0 start in ACC play.
“We’re a team that needs to improve quickly,” Mack said. “The schedule is backloaded, and so that is obviously daunting, but at the same time, we’ve got a bunch of days here before we play on Saturday, so we have to keep our spirits up. We have to be able to get better over the next four days in order to compete against one of the better teams in the league.”
Louisville hosts Duke (15-3, 5-2 ACC) on Saturday, the beginning of a stretch that has the Cardinals also hosting North Carolina (13-6, 5-3 ACC) before going on the road at Syracuse (9-10, 3-5 ACC) and at Notre Dame (12-6, 5-2 ACC) before getting Miami at home.
Virginia’s next five: at Notre Dame on Saturday, then Boston College (8-10, 3-5 ACC) and Miami at home next week, at Duke on Feb. 7, before getting Georgia Tech (8-10, 1-6 ACC) back in JPJ.
Story by Chris Graham