As it turns out, not everything about this pandemic season is different.
In a game that felt eerily similar to a majority of Louisville-Virginia games of the recent past, the Cavaliers plodded out to an early lead over their hosts, held off a couple of U of L runs, and ultimately walked away with a 68-58 victory.
With the win coupled with Florida State’s loss, Virginia locked up its 25th consecutive ACC regular season title. Or at least it feels that way. I don’t know what the actual statistic is and I’m not going to look it up.
Sam Hauser predictably capped what has been a fairly underwhelming season by doing his best Dirk Nowitzki impersonation. The 6’8 transfer from Marquette seemed to hit a heavily contested jumper on every crucial Virginia possession. He finished with a game-high 24 points and 9-of-14 shooting, and also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
For a brief moment in the second half, it appeared as though Louisville had a real shot to put its UVA demons to bed for good.
The Cards seized momentum with a 9-2 run and were a pair of Jae’lyn Withers free-throws away from trimming Virginia’s lead to two. Withers missed both, David Johnson missed an open three-pointer on the next possession, and then Withers fouled Tomas Woldetensae on a three-point attempt. U of L seemed to immediately lose the bounce in its step and never got closer than seven points again.
Virginia killed Louisville from inside the arc, shooting 51.9 percent from the field despite going just 3-of-15 from three. The reverse was true for the home team, which actually shot a better percentage from deep (38.5 percent) than it did from the field overall (36.8 percent).
It was the most frustrating game of the season for Cardinal star Carlik Jones, who saw his run of 40 consecutive games scoring in double figures come to an end. The potential ACC Player of the Year was frustrated all night by Kihei Clark and a wave of UVA defenders that held him to just six points on a woeful 2-of-15 shooting. He did dish out a team-high six assists against no turnovers.
David Johnson led Louisville with 14 points, but it took him 17 shots to get there. Withers added 12 points, while Samuell Williamson once again flirted with a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing nine boards.
Now, Louisville must wait for the outcome of the Duke-North Carolina game to figure out whether it will be the No. 6 or No. 7 seed for next week’s ACC tournament. The Cards would have locked up the No. 3 seed with a win.
ACC Men's Basketball Tournament bracket based on North Carolina-Duke result: pic.twitter.com/ojUax1IxCy— Kelly Dickey (@RealCardGame) March 6, 2021
There’s no way around it, after all the good vibes that were present seven days ago, this has been an extremely disappointing week. Now the team is tasked with having the maturity of being able to pick itself up off the mat and get ready for a Wednesday night game that they will need to win in order to avoid a very tense Selection Sunday.
At least UVA is guaranteed to be on the other side of the bracket.