Caveat: This is written bleary-eyed, at a very early hour, after short, fitful sleep. I’ve double checked myself, but if I’ve missed a number here and there, or there’s a typo, be gentle.
At his pregame press conference on Friday afternoon, Chris Mack was asked about the importance of getting a strong start, especially against a team like UVa, which slows the game down with its style of play?
While acknowledging that starts are always important, the U of L mentor explained how he views the game in ten four-minute segments, the delineations dictated by media timeouts. The team that wins the most segments, he offered, usually wins the game.
Which response I adored, since I’ve always organized my game notes, such as that organization is, by breaks in the action, both media and team-called stoppages.
Well, then. let’s see.
Saturday’s segments, Seedy-style.
At 15:57 of the 1st, the Cardinals were +6 at 15-9. Darius Perry had drained a trio of triples, Jordan Nwora, a couple. U of L was 5/6 from beyond the arc, and had not even attempted a two-pointer.
At 11:48, the scoreboard read 20-14. The teams were even for the segment.
At 6:32, the Cards were +10 at 33-23, after David Johnson drove it to the tin, and was granted a deuce on a Cavalier goaltend. DJ already had three assists. Both teams were red hot. U of L was 13/22. UVa was 12/21.
At the 3:40 mark, Louisville’s lead was 36-27, meaning the visitors won the segment by a digit.
There was another break at 2:55, with the score 38-27, +11 for the Cards, another segment victory.
As the teams headed for the locker room, U of L lead 44-30, making them +3 for the final segment.
So, there were six segments to the opening twenty. The Cards prevailed in four of them, +6, +4, +1, and +3. UVa in one by a point. One was played even.
Tony Bennett and his troops must have been shaking their heads in the locker room at the break. The Cavaliers were 13/25 from the field (52%). Yet the team that has been far and away the nation’s best defensively since they held Syracuse to 34 for the entire game in the Carrier Dome in the season opener, was down 14.
The Cards had seven assists, and only two turnovers against that annoying UVa packline. And were 18/30 from the field (60%), including 8/15 from the burbs, continuing their torrid long range shooting for the last month.
Perspective and context. UVa came into the contest as first in the land in FG % D (35.6%) and scoring D (50.4 ppg).
The Cardinals tally of 44 in the first was as many or more than seven of the Cavaliers’ foes had scored for an entire game.
Note: If this game summary seems more statistical than usual, it may be that I happened to be sitting next to numbers guru, stats junkie Kelly Dickey. And his aura must have worn off on me.
The dude paid attention during Arithmetic Class. While I get too nervous during games to even type on my laptop, thus taking notes with a pen on legal pad the old fashioned way, Dickey sits there with an Excel spreadsheet he had created with all the stats from every U of L/ UVa game.
* * * * *
I needn’t advise anybody who watched the fascinating contest that the 2d half, was, shall I say, a bit more stressful for the team and the Red & Black Faithful than the 1st.
At 15:55, the visitors had whittled the U of L advantage to 49-40, a -5 for the segment for the Cards.
Chris Mack called a timeout at 14:14, when the Cardinals margin had been cut to 7 at 51-44. -2 for the segment.
The teams played it even from then to the 11:32 media break, when the score was 56-49.
The word that comes to mind when watching Virginia play is inexorable. “Impossible to stop or prevent.” The Cavaliers under Tony Bennett just keep doing what they do. Which the Card Nation certainly knows since UVa had beaten Louisville nine times in a row coming in.
The slog continued. At the 7:06 break, U of L’s advantage had been whittled by another couple of points and was 60-55. In that 12:54 of action, the Cards had netted but three FGs, in only 12 attempts.
Ah, but there had been a turn most significant during that segment at the 10:24 mark. UVa, which is 3d best in the nation in fewest fouls committed, only 13.3 pg coming in, had put U of L in the bonus, committing their seventh. Which Malik Williams commemorated by draining two charity tosses to push the Cards, temporarily, back up by nine.
Credit Mack’s strategy and U of L’s aggressiveness, even if the Cards O flow had slowed to a crawl after intermission.
As I am wont to do in these situations, I wrote the following in my notes, and uttered same in Dickey’s direction. “MAKE YOUR FTS, WIN THE GAME!!!” (Yes, I printed in all caps. Yes, I used three exclamation points.)
Mack called a timeout with 4:38 to play. Even though it was preceded by a Steven Enoch deuce in the paint, U of L was -1 for the segment, as the score stood 66-62.
When ESPN stopped play again at 3:58, the score was down to 66 Cardinals, 65 Cavaliers, after another UVa trey. At that point, the visitors were 7/11 on bombs in the 2d. The name Tomas Woldetensae was all over the scorebook.
Yet another 2d half segment deficit for the Cards. U of L had lost 5 of the 6 for the second stanza, playing one even.
And then, and then, and then . . . the game got really interesting. As in hyperventilating interesting. As in cardiac infarction interesting. As in gastrointestinal distress interesting.
The Cards lead vanished completely at 3:32 on yet another bomb by that Cavalier whose name I spelled once, and I’m not going to try again. 68-68.
Chris Mack’s frustrations overflowing, he complained too much at what might delicately be called an inopportune moment. He was Teed up.
Kihei Clark’s two FTs pushed Virginia ahead 70-68 with 3:25 to go. The once 16 point lead had been relinquished.
Visions of another Cardinal meltdown were swirling nightmarishly through my head. I trust I was not alone.
But, ya know, this Cardinal squad is solid, steel reinforced, as in days of yesteryear, like those ‘80 national champs introduced at halftime.
I’ll consider what happened from then on as one segment, even though there were stoppages. Because, it was oh so so very sweet. And, given my stress level, sort of a blur, until I get to watch the replay.
Johnson knotted the game at 70 on a jumper. Louisville then drained 10 of 12 FTs, wrapped around a Kihei Clark deuce and FT.
In the end, that 12-3 final foray was the only segment of the 2d that mattered.
80-73 was the final. UVa had given up as many as 70 only once before this season, in a loss to South Carolina. The Cavaliers 73 was eight more than they’d registered in any game, and they still fell by 7.
* * * * *
U of L neither made nor attempted a FT in the 1st. The Cards were 21/24 (87.5%) in the 2d.
They made their FTs, they won the game.
Jordan Nwora led the way for U of L with 22 points and 7 boards.
Malik Williams had 13 and 6. Steven Enoch also scored 13. David Johnson scored 7 with 3 rebounds and 5 assists. Dwayne Sutton had six rebounds. Darius Perry’s trio of triples during the Cards’ first six possessions of the battle were huge. As was his D.
The Cards won the battle in the paint, 26-18, had 15 2d chance scores to just 4 for UVa, and led in scoring off the pine, 29-2.
Normally, what happens when I get to this point in crafting these recaps is to look through my notes to see if there’s some significant play or moment, some turning point I’ve failed to mention.
What strikes me about yesterday’s fascinating encounter, is that U of L again simply finished. The Cardinals beat the defending national champs and nation’s best defensive team for the first time after nine losses in a row.
What stands out is that Louisville just got it done. They came out hot, pushed ahead big, withstood the charge.
The # 2 seed Louisville Cardinals delivered an honest day’s work, and stand 21-3, 12-1 atop the ACC standings.
— c d kaplan