Virginia beats Louisville 64-52 behind De’Andre Hunter’s career high 26 points
Story by Zach Pereles
Kyle Guy couldn’t find his shot. Neither could Ty Jerome. De’Andre Hunter had to sit with two fouls. The Virginia Cavaliers were in trouble in the first half.
Then came the best half of Hunter’s career. The redshirt sophomore dropped 18 points in the second half and a career-high 26 total as No. 3 Virginia (24-2, 12-2 ACC) rallied past — and then ran away from — No. 18 Louisville (18-10, 9-6 ACC) by a score of 64-52 at the KFC Yum! Center.
It’s Virginia’s eighth straight win over Louisville. The Cavaliers also set an ACC record with their fifth road win over an AP-ranked team this season.
The Cavaliers made a lineup change ahead of the game, subbing out struggling guard Kihei Clark for forward Braxton Key, who joined Jerome, Guy, Hunter and Jack Salt. It didn’t take long for Key to make an impact: He blocked a shot on Louisville’s opening possession to force a shot-clock violation.
Both teams started cold, and it took nearly three minutes before Dwayne Sutton’s free throws broke the ice. He added two triples around a Hunter layup to give the hosts an 8-2 lead at the under-16 timeout. The Cavaliers missed seven of their first eight shots.
Louisville maintained its six-point advantage, 16-10, by the under-12 timeout, even with Diakite giving the Cavaliers a boost off the bench with four quick points. Threes from Jordan Nwora and Christen Cunningham gave the Cardinals four made deep balls out of seven in the first nine minutes. The Cardinals also showed a bit of an extended zone, which slowed the visitors’ offense.
After Hunter finished and-1 following a steal, the Cardinals increased their lead to 12 with three straight threes to make it 25-13. Just like that, the Yum! Center was alive, and Tony Bennett needed a timeout. After making just six of 26 threes at Syracuse on Wednesday, the Cardinals hit seven of their first 10 threes Saturday.
The newly inserted Huff helped stop the 9-0 run with a reverse alley-oop slam, and Virginia looked at a 25-15 deficit at the under-8 timeout.
Virginia nibbled away with back-to-back baskets from Diakite and Huff, but their three-point shooting remained ice cold.
But Diakite helped make up for it, grabbing his own miss and putting it back for his seventh and eighth points of the half. With Virginia on an 8-0 run, Chris Mack called timeout with just over four minutes remaining.
McMahon ended the run with another three — his third of the game — and later added another in transition. The hosts built their lead back up to nine and then 11 when Cunningham knocked down the Cardinals’ first two-pointer of the game with just over a minute to go. Huff did everything he could to keep the Cavaliers in it with another massive alley-oop finish and a tip-in, but Nwora banked in a running three as the buzzer sounded, giving Louisville a 37-27 halftime lead.
Louisville made just one of nine two-pointers in the first half but hit 10 of 16 threes.
On the other hand, Virginia made 13 of 23 twos but zero of 11 threes.
One of the things that hurt the Cavaliers was Hunter picking up a second foul roughly halfway through the first half, the second consecutive game he has done so. Clark received his minutes and missed two three-pointers — both wide open — and passed up several other good looks.
If there was a positive from the first half, it was the outstanding play of Diakite and Huff on the offensive end. The two combined for 18 points, with Huff posting 10 in the first half alone, the most he’s scored in an ACC game this season. He also added three rebounds and a block. It was the first time someone other than Jerome, Guy or Hunter had eclipsed the double-digit plateau in three weeks.
Louisville matched its biggest lead of the half with a putback from Malik Williams, but the Cavaliers used a quick 6-0 burst — a Hunter dunk, a Jerome layup and a Hunter layup — to cut it to 39-33. After a Nwora bucket, Hunter hit Virginia’s first three of the game to get it to five, 41-36, at the under-16.
Hunter then scored on his second and-1 to cut the deficit to two, and a perfect pass from Clark to Huff for a dunk tied things at 41. Nwora snapped the Louisville drought — and gave the Cardinals a 44-41 lead — with a stepback three. After Diakite responded with a huge dunk, Steven Enoch knocked down a triple, answered by a Jerome jumper. With 9:48 to go, Virginia trailed 47-45.
Hunter tied things at 47 with two free throws coming out of the timeout, and Guy’s lefty layup gave the Cavaliers their first lead of the day.
In what proved to be an important turn of events, Diakite drew a charge on Nwora on the ensuing possession. Replay showed Diakite’s heel was inside the restricted area, meaning it should have been a charge. Mack exploded on the sideline, earning a technical, and Hunter knocked down the free throws.
The Cavaliers’ small forward continued to make up for missed time. A contested long two gave the Cavaliers a 55-48 lead, their biggest of the day to that point. Then he drained in a three to make it 58-50, giving him a new career high of 26 points (on just 11 shots) and 18 in the second half. Mack called for timeout.
Louisville’s once-red-hot three-point shooting started to fall apart, and Guy hit two free throws to make the lead 60-50 at the under-4 timeout. The Cavaliers then calmly put away the Cardinals with two big dunks.
Louisville’s final shot, fittingly, was an airballed three. The Cavaliers would leave Louisville with yet another win, much to the dismay of the Cardinal faithful.