I know it’s almost three days old, but it was awesome and I still want to talk about it and so I’m going to do just that.
—There are plenty of things to talk about here as far as what went right in the game and what it means for the rest of the season, but let’s start with this: I love the domination of Virginia Tech and I’m thrilled that it’s continuing. Why? I don’t know, it’s fun.
Louisville has now won 15 consecutive games over the Hokies, breaking a tie with Eastern Kentucky for U of L’s longest active winning streak against an opponent. The Cards haven’t tasted defeat against VT since Feb. 13, 1991, and are now 7-0 against them as members of the ACC. Virginia Tech has only lost inside Cassell Coliseum twice over the past 365 days, and both of those losses are to Louisville.
The craziest thing is that the streak is rolling on during arguably the best stretch Virginia Tech basketball has ever seen. The Hokies are about to go to three straight NCAA tournaments for the first time in program history. All told, they’ve only been to the Big Dance 10 times ever. And yet the losses to U of L continue to pile up.
I hope the streak lasts forever.
—My favorite thing about this game was how Louisville answered every single time Virginia Tech had the building on the verge of exploding and appeared to be one successful stop and score away from seizing complete momentum.
Virginia Tech cuts it to 16-13 — Steven Enoch drills a three near the end of the shot clock
Virginia Tech cuts it to 28-26 — Enoch drills another three as the first half clock expires
Virginia Tech cuts it to 31-30 — Christen Cunningham hits a beautiful midrange jumper
Virginia Tech cuts it to 41-38 — Ryan McMahon draws a foul on a three to kick off his personal 12-point run
Virginia Tech cuts it to 61-55 — Jordan Nwora takes control back with a beautiful drive to the bucket
Virginia Tech cuts it to 63-58 — Dwayne Sutton hits the dagger ... ill-advised as it may have been
Never doubt Dwayne.
Speaking of ...
—Dwayne Sutton is an absolute warrior and he was f—-ing everywhere in this game, but I don’t need to tell you that. Instead, here’s a montage of his best moments (the transitions are weird for some reason, but whatever).
A year ago it was the funky bounce on a Dwayne corner three that was the biggest shot of the game at Cassell, this year it a banked in three from the top of the key on the same basket. He scored 17 points in both games.
Our man loves Blacksburg.
—Christen Cunningham with six assists and just one turnover (and it didn’t look like he actually traveled on the turnover). He’s now at 102 assists to just 37 turnovers, and leads the ACC in assists per game in league play at 6.4.
It’s hard to imagine where we’d be if Chris Mack hadn’t reached out to this guy.
—Given the success of CC and Dwayne Sutton this season, I think Mack needs to purposefully not recruit local two and three-star talent, wait until they have decent success after one or two seasons at a low/mid-major, and then get them to transfer here. Obviously, it’s a pretty clear path to success.
—Some insight on the odd Chris Mack-Buzz Williams interaction that the cameras picked up on during the game.
Apparently, during a break in the action, a Louisville staffer walked over to the scorer’s table to pick up a stat sheet as he always does. Buzz was where the stat sheets get picked up and he was rifling through an absurd amount of unorganized papers because he’s Buzz Williams. The staffer patiently waited for him to finish and to be able to grab the stat sheet. Buzz noticed him and basically said, “who are you and what are you doing?” He then inquired as to whether or not the staffer was on a (very poorly camouflaged) espionage mission. The staffer said he was just waiting for the stat sheet. That’s what led to the back and forth with Mack, who noted after the game that he and Buzz have a good relationship.
Buzz is weird.
—Speaking of Buzz being weird, here’s his postgame interview with the VT radio crew, in which he spends most of his time lamenting his lack of depth and having to play an uncomfortable style as a result of that lack of depth. It also gets interesting at the end where he talks about not fouling down 8 in the final 20 seconds because of the NET. That also explains why he took a timeout before the possession where VT trimmed Louisville’s lead from 11 to 8.
Again, Buzz is out there. But to be fair, he also isn’t the only coach who’s doing things differently at the end of games because of the existence of the NET.
—I’ll say it again: Ryan McMahon has never missed the three-pointer that he attempts immediately following his first three-point make of a game. I can’t prove it, but I know it. I can’t guarantee that he’s going to rip off three (or four) straight every night, but once that first one goes through the net, the next one is going to follow suit.
—Everyone’s heard the adage about how great poker players can reel off their worst beats off the top of their head without hesitation, but lose track of all the times they’ve been blessed by extreme good fortune. The phenomenon definitely applies to carries over into sports fandom, where we’re more likely to have vivid recollections of things that help explain painful losses than vivd recollections of a break or two that helped produce a joyous result.
I say all that to get to this: We should probably at least acknowledge that we’ve caught some breaks this year. I’m not saying that we wouldn’t have won those games if we hadn’t or that we aren’t owed a few breaks after the last handful of years, I’m just acknowledging that they’ve happened. We caught Georgia Tech in the one game it didn’t have leading scorer Jose Alvarado and two other contributors, we caught NC State without starting point guard Markell Johnson, and we caught VT without starting point guard (and the school’s all-time leader in assists) Justin Robinson.
Again, Louisville has proven enough over the course of the past three months to leave no doubt as to whether or not they’re worthy of their national ranking or their status as “legit.” They’ve also caught a handful of breaks in the first half of the ACC season that have made life just a hair more manageable than it would have been otherwise.
—I hope we never have to see it again this season (or any other season), but I love seeing the way this team comes out in the game immediately following a loss or a poor performance. There’s always energy on the sideline, but there’s almost a hunger in games like Monday night’s. It’s also great to see obvious evidence of the way the areas where the team struggled in the prior game were stressed in the days in between. It’s almost like you can hear Mack’s messages from the past two or three days in the way the team plays.
—Jordan Nwora isn’t sneaking up on anyone anymore, and it’s becoming more and more obvious that the scouting report that opposing coaches (besides Pastner) have on him is to not let him kill you with catch and shoot threes.
Here’s Nwora burying an extremely difficult step back three off the bounce. Right after it goes in, Buzz Williams applauds his defense.
Jordan Nwora hits a step back three off the bounce. Buzz Williams is cool with it and applauds his defense. pic.twitter.com/bDD68uf0KX— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) February 5, 2019
On the very next possession, Jordan drills a catch and shoot three in rhythm. Buzz immediately calls timeout and can’t even look at his guys.
Next possession: Nwora hits a catch and shoot three in rhythm. Buzz calls timeout and can’t even look at his players. pic.twitter.com/VnXstg6BGN— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) February 5, 2019
Jordan actually attacked the basket pretty effectively in this game, he just didn’t finish a couple of times. That’s something he’s going to need to keep doing, because opposing defenses have stopped giving him any cushion on the catch, even when he’s three or four steps behind the three-point line.
—Quick Cardinal Snow Globe Update:
Before the game Monday night, I played “Taps” and took the snow globe back down to the basement. That’s not a joke. I put the video on my IG story.
In my heart of hearts, I knew before the North Carolina game on Saturday that it was time to make the move. If we’re being honest (and we always are here), I simply didn’t have the balls to face the fear of moving the globe and then potentially watching the Cards lose to UNC.
It was the right move then, and it was the right move Monday. We know that now. I overused the magic last February and have benefitted greatly from that experience.
Am I ruling out a snow globe reemergence at some point between now and March? I’m not. If the weather shifts again and we get a solid snowfall on the night before a game, I’m willing to embrace that as a sign.
Again, when the time comes ... I’ll know.
—It’s astounding to think about all the time we spent back in November and December — even when the team was already overachieving — trying to envision a road for Louisville to get to nine or 10 ACC wins. Now it’s early February and the Cards are 8-2 in the league.
These guys are the best and this season has been the best.
—This is one of my favorite moments from a season loaded with awesome moments.
Dwayne knew it was money @DwayneSutton @RyanMcMahon pic.twitter.com/WgQlXKkGfe— Ty Yates (@TyYates17) February 5, 2019
—Quick props to the VT crowd: They were terrific. For a basketball program that’s only been to one Sweet 16 — which happened in 1967 — they still have a fan base that packs Cassell Coliseum and provides a terrific environment for big home games.
—Chris Mack mentioned in passing before the season that he thought his style might be more conducive to winning on the road. A 4-1 road record in the ACC with those four wins coming by an average of 21.3 points would certainly seem to back that up.
Let’s get another one on Saturday.