By Dalton Ray —
Top-ranked Virginia banked in a buzzer-beater to down men’s basketball 67-66. Louisville led for 34 minutes, but the final heave ended the hopes for an upset of the nation’s top team.
Freshman Darius Perry fouled Virginia’s Ty Jerome on the 3-point attempt with less than a second remaining, putting Jerome on the line. He made two free throws, but a lane violation gave the ball to U of L.
Junior Deng Adel went to inbound the ball but tried to run the baseline and was called for the turnover.
The crowd went from deafening to silent as Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter banked in the winning shot. A hollow ring sung through the arena as Hunter’s teammates swarmed him.
“It’s a prayer (shot). It’s a prayer from 30 feet. The stars weren’t aligned for us today,” acting coach David Padgett said. “This is the toughest loss I’ve ever had.”
Padgett owned the blame for the loss after the game.
“Coaches always take the blame for the loss. I should have done a few things differently there, that’s on me,” Padgett said. “That’s on me as a head coach. It’ll never be on the players.”
On senior night, Quentin Snider posted 13 points on 3-of-6 3-point shooting. Adel led Louisville with 18 points and junior Ray Spalding added 16.
Louisville led by nine with 3:47 to play but the Cavaliers cut it to two by 2:36.
Trailing 10-4, Louisville ripped off an electric 13-0 run that made the crowd a factor. A pair of threes from Snider helped Louisville go on a 13-0 run.
Virginia missed six straight shots during the stretch.
Sophomore Ryan McMahon buried a three to push the Louisville run to 19-3. The Cardinals didn’t commit a turnover during the run and led 23-13.
All about the pace
Louisville gained their lead by closing out Virginia’s possessions, not fouling and playing with an up-tempo offensive pace.
In the opening 13 minutes, Louisville used that recipe to earn a 26-16 lead. Virginia’s style of play then started to sink in.
Foul calls started to slow the game down and the Cavs took advantage by creeping back in from the free throw line. Virginia started to own the glass, out-rebounding the Cardinals 13-5 in the final seven minutes before halftime.
The Cardinals held a 32-26 halftime lead as the top-ranked Cavs started to get settled.
Virginia started the half with an offensive rebound followed by an and-one. They trailed by three and the arena could feel the lead slipping away.
Spalding wouldn’t let momentum swing UVA’s way, getting a bucket then forcing a turnover.
The Cardinals forced back-to-back turnovers, Adel nailed the floater in between.
Adel tighten the grip on the Cavs with a three to push their lead to 46-33.
Finishing the job?
With the 13-point lead, Louisville attacked the rim. By not settling for jump shots, the Cardinals drew foul calls and kept their distance.
With Virginia trying to cut the lead to single-digits, Spalding’s block on UVA’s leading scorer Kyle Guy kept the crowd alive.
The Cavs responded with defensive stops and three straight made buckets to come within two points with 2:35 to play.
Tied at 58 with 1:03 to play, McMahon’s steal led to Spalding’s put-back to swing the lead back to Louisville’s favor.
With a two-point lead, Spalding forced back-to-back contested looks and came up with the loose ball.
Spalding’s free throws with 14 seconds to play put U of L up five, but Jerome answered with a three to keep the Cavs in striking distance.
Louisville (19-11, 9-8) is right on the line of making the NCAA tournament. A win against No. 1 Virginia may have sealed their ticket, but that opportunity is now behind them.
U of L travels to NC State Saturday, March 3 at 6 p.m. A win keeps the tournament hopes alive, a loss could punch their ticket to the NIT.
“We have to win this game Saturday. There is no real such thing as must-wins, but this is one that is about as close as one as we will have,” Padgett said.
You can follow Dalton Ray on Twitter @dray5477.
Photos by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal