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Virginia Men's Basketball

UVA vs Louisville Preview: One Last Chance for a Statement Win

In UVA’s final regular season contest the ‘Hoos tip off against a good but not great Louisville team in the KFC Yum! Center where they’ve had a great deal of success in recent years. In fact, under Bennett, UVA is 11-2 against Louisville and 4-2 against the Cardinals in the Yum! Center with an additional two wins in the 2019 NCAA Tournament over Oregon and Purdue. 

What Louisville has done this season

At 13-5 overall and 8-4 in conference play, the Cardinals sit in fourth place in the ACC. Just like the rest of the league, Louisville is an inconsistent squad. In fact, the Cardinals have lost two games by a combined 77 points with a 37-point at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers back in December along with a 40-point loss to North Carolina just over two weeks ago. They also lost to Miami on the road in mid-January, so the Cardinals have had their struggles.

That said, Louisville has a couple nice wins as well with a 73-71 victory over Virginia Tech, a 16-point beating of Georgia Tech, and an overtime road win against a resurgent Duke squad. 

Breaking Louisville down

As an often stagnant offense, Louisville heavily relies on point guard Carlik Jones to be a high volume scorer. Despite some rough shooting numbers, Jones takes nearly 15 shots per game on 32.7 percent shooting from deep and 42 percent from the field. He makes the Cardinal offense go as he also dishes out 4.5 assists per game on a high 26.1 percent assist rate. 

As Jones’s partner in the backcourt, David Johnson is the only Cardinal shooting above 35 percent from behind the arc on more than 2.5 attempts per contest. The 6’5” sophomore is Louisville’s second leading scorer behind Jones and can initiate the offense a bit as well with a 20.4 percent assist rate of his own. 

In the frontcourt, Jae’Lyn Withers and Sammuel Williamson provide additional scoring on the wing.

UVA will win if:

The ‘Hoos can slow Jones down. Considering how Reece Beekman played Isaiah Wong on Monday, he’ll likely be the best option for guarding Jones while Kihei Clark should get opportunities as well. If UVA limits Jones, the Cardinals don’t have many other options offensively. On the other end, it’ll be critical to manufacture as many touches and shots for Jay Huff and Sam Hauser as possible. 

Louisville will win if:

The Cardinals can force the Wahoo guards to beat them. Frankly, the formula for beating this UVA squad is out there. Run the bigs off the line, switch everything, and make the pass-first guards make plays for themselves. If Louisville does that successfully and can get Jones in an early rhythm, the Cardinals have a great shot at pulling out the upset. 

Score prediction: Louisville 63 – UVA 62

It was good to see UVA stop the bleeding against Miami on Monday. But Virginia needs much better play from the offense to win this game and I don’t see a scoring outburst coming. Granted, Louisville’s offense is nothing special but Jones is good enough to propel them to the victory. 

(Image – Joe Mahoney – Richmond Times Dispatch)

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