Virginia used a big second-half run to secure a big home win in the ACC as they beat depleted No. 4 Louisville 71-55 on Monday night. The Cavaliers found themselves down at the half only to start the second half on a monster 22-4 run.
Playing without Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang (suspended for violating team curfew), the Cardinals didn’t have the firepower to stay with the Cavaliers once Virginia went on its big run. The No. 12 Cavaliers broke a three-way tie for second place in the ACC with the win as they try to keep pace with North Carolina.
London Perrantes led Virginia with 18 points while Isaiah Wilkins had 13 points and 11 rebounds as Virginia had a balanced offensive attack that outscored Louisville 39-21 in the second half.
Here are two takeaways from this one.
1. Virginia has Louisville’s number (and it will help the ‘Hoos NCAA tournament seed)
The Cavaliers (18-5, 8-3) just seem to have the Cardinals figured out. With four consecutive wins over Louisville and five wins over the last six games, Rick Pitino’s teams have struggled against Virginia since joining the ACC.
Most importantly for Virginia, two wins over Louisville this season gives Virginia a nice footnote for its NCAA tournament profile. Virginia’s non-conference wins ended up being worse than originally thought (wins over Iowa, Providence, Ohio State and Cal aren’t all that helpful) but beating the Cardinals means that Virginia might get two top-10 wins from one opponent.
With Virginia dropping a road game at Syracuse over the weekend, this win should elevate the Cavaliers back up to a potential top-three seed as they continue to try to stay with the ACC’s elite. If Virginia can keep winning games like this they’ll have a chance to climb even higher in tournament seeding since so many top-25 teams have lost games lately.
Virginia has a tough schedule to conquer the rest of the regular season but it also offers this team the chance to stockpile some more quality wins.
2. Being shorthanded finally caught up to Louisville but they’ll be near full strength soon enough
Louisville (19-5, 7-4) is already accustomed to playing without its full lineup as point guard Quentin Snider and reserve guard Tony Hicks have missed recent time due to injury. But two suspensions made matters even worse for Louisville with the loss of Adel and Mathiang on Monday.
With those two in the lineup, Louisville might have tried to press Virginia for the entire game — using its length, athleticism and depth to try to wear down the ‘Hoos and change what they’ve been doing in the past.
As I alluded to above, Louisville has struggled to figure out Virginia in ACC play the last few years so they really could have used those Adel and Mathiang in a game like this. It did give a chance for others to shine, as freshman V.J. King scored a career-high 24 points, but the Cardinals were also missing the depth that helps make them so effective.
With only King and sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell (16 points) scoring at all, Louisville’s offense really struggled, especially in the second half. The Cardinals also got destroyed on the glass as they were outrebounded 38-19.
Missing those two players certainly hurt Louisville in this one but the schedule gets quite a bit easier from here.
Louisville only has one ranked team remaining on the regular season schedule as they get two against Syracuse and games with Wake Forest and Miami. Those are three tough teams trying to fight for the NCAA tournament but the Cardinals should also be favored in most of those games as long as they have most of their lineup.
That means the Cardinals can still compete for the ACC regular-season crown if they win out — especially with a crack at conference-leader North Carolina on Feb. 22.
With Louisville expecting Snider to be potentially back by the weekend, they should be back to full strength for the stretch run.