From frustration, to jubilee, back and forth all game long, the better team won that game. You’ve got to tip your hat to Louisville. They’re one of the best teams in the country and are likely going to be playing late into March, maybe even April. With that in mind, this outcome is by no means a disappointment. In fact, there’s a number of positive takeaways from this loss.
This was a phenomenal basketball game
Combined, these two teams shot 52% from the field and 45.5% from behind the arc. In some cases, the defense was lacking, but the majority of the time, the offenses were just canning difficult shots. Louisville was hot in the first half, and Virginia countered in the second. This game was so entertaining, that I’m betting even non-Virginia fans could’ve enjoyed it (I know, I know, bold statement).
Best performance this season
Despite the loss, this was clearly Virginia’s best performance so far this season. Offensively, they scored seventy-plus points for the first time since last April, and shot their best from deep since that anomaly in the Carrier Dome last season. With Bennett’s traditional offenses thrown to the curb, this team put up 1.16 points per possession on a team that only allows .932 points per possession. In fact, the Cardinals’ defensive rating dropped a whopping 2.1 points just from Virginia’s outpour of offense earlier today. Defensively, the Wahoos came up short, particularly in the post against Enoch, and late versus Williams’ penetration in the lane. That said, Louisville also shot out of their minds in the first half, and the ‘Hoos clamped down for most of the second.
Backcourt steps up
The starting backcourt combined for fifty points on 18-26 shooting and 11-16 from deep. That’s 68.8% from three. We’d all been waiting for the reversion to some sort of shooting mean for this team, and it seems as if they’re getting there. But more seriously, Woldetensae was hitting everything he wanted and Clark was masterful as he coordinated the offense, dishing out seven assists and finding a way to finish among the trees. Clark ended with the stat-line of twenty-three points, seven assists, and five rebounds. You can’t ask for more from those two guys.
While the two-man backcourt combined for fifty points, the trio of Huff, Diakite, and Key only scored twenty-one in a combined 106 minutes. Diakite scored ten, Key chipped in seven, and Huff four. That’s not terrible, but on 8-23 shooting? Considering that the frontcourt is this team’s strength, you’d like to see them step it up in such a meaningful game. I don’t mean to pile it on those three, but Louisville out rebounded the Wahoos 31-19, corralling 33% of their own misses (eight offensive rebounds to Virginia’s sixteen defensive rebounds). It’s impossible to beat good teams with a performance like that from the big-men.
The big picture
Coming in, the only scenario in which Virginia hurt themselves was if they got blown out, and for awhile there, it looked like that was what was going to happen. But, the second half turnaround was massive and displayed that the Florida State win was no fluke. This loss won’t hurt, nor will it help Virginia’s tournament resume. But at the end of the day, this team was a few made free throws and a couple defensive rebounds away from upsetting the #5 team in the country for the second time this season. That’s nothing to scoff at.
The ‘Hoos will likely have to upset Duke or Louisville in the coming month, but for now, the UVA faithful should be content with the knowledge that this team can legitimately beat anyone in the country.