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Strong start, late defense push Virginia past Louisville

kadin shedrick
Kadin Shedrick. Photo by Dan Grogan.

Louisville came to Charlottesville Monday desperate for a win. Virginia returned home to hopefully put an ugly loss at NC State to rest. Virginia accomplished its objective with a very familiar-looking win, 64-52 over the Cardinals.

Not so much for Louisville, which was booed as it left the floor in a home loss to Notre Dame Saturday, and dropped to 11-9, 5-5 in ACC play with the loss tonight. After a 4-0 start in conference play, the Cards have fallen on hard times.

Virginia jumped out early against Louisville, building a 27-8 lead by the 6:26 mark of the first half. The Cavaliers connected on eight of their first 12 field goal attempts as they bolted out to a 21-5 lead in the game’s first eight minutes. Virginia proceeded to miss their next five shot attempts, but Louisville failed to capitalize.

Francisco Caffaro made two free throws as the margin grew to 19.

Louisville would cut into the lead over the final minutes of the first half and pulled to within four in the second half, but the Cardinals could not put together enough scores or defensive stops when it counted.

For Louisville, maybe the ND loss had a carryover effect. Cardinal coach Chris Mack, whose seat is getting hotter in the KFC Yum! Center, said the slow defensive start for his team was certainly a factor.

“The early deficit (27-8) just put us behind the eight ball,” Mack said.  “After they got 25 points in the first eight, nine minutes, it was way more of a challenge for them (Virginia) to score after that point.”

Game notes

Virginia withstands Louisville rally:  On Saturday after the loss to the Irish, there were concerns as to whether the Cardinals still were engaged – or still in tune with the coaching staff. Those concerns didn’t diminish early in quickly falling behind Virginia.

With 11:54 to play in the second half, a Malik Williams basket pulled Louisville to within four at 45-41. Virginia responded, however. The Cavaliers answered with seven straight points to balloon the lead above double digits at 52-41 with 7:51 left. The 7-0 run was bookend by the Cavalier backcourt of Reece Beekman and Kihei Clark. Beekman recorded a steal and three of his game-high 11 assists over the run while Clark drilled a three to push the lead to double digits at 52-41. Louisville crept no closer than five the remainder of the contest.

Virginia leads wire-to-wire: The Cavaliers jumped to a quick 5-0 lead to start the game after Clark nailed a 3-pointer, then advanced the lead to 22-5 nine minutes into the game. Louisville battled back, slicing the lead to as little as four at 45-41, but could never catch up.

The all-to familiar prolonged Virginia scoring drought never materialized as the longest stretch without a basket was 3:20. Beekman broke the mini-drought with a basket with :07 remaining in the half that gave the Cavaliers a 35-23 lead at the break.

Cavaliers dish it out:  Reece Beekman fueled the Virginia offense? You bet. Despite scoring just two points, Beekman ended up with 11 assists as Virginia was credited with 20 assists on 24 made baskets. Beekman’s running mate, Clark, who had a game-high 15 points, also handed out five assists. The Cavaliers’ high-water assist mark of the season was 22 in a win in the Carrier Dome over Syracuse.

Familiar looking UVA: Coming off a dismal defensive outing at NC State on Saturday in which Virginia surrendered its most points and highest field goal percentage allowed (60 percent), the Cavaliers returned to form against Louisville.  The Cardinals connected on just 37.5 percent from the floor.

Virginia continues a season-long tend: The Cavaliers have won back-to-back games only once this season, beating Syracuse and Clemson. Virginia has yet to lose back-to-back games this season.

Story by Scott German

augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press

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