By Sam Draut–
With a self-imposed postseason banning preventing play in the ACC and NCAA tournament, Louisville played its final game of the 2015-16 season. The 11th-ranked Cardinals were dominated by a suffocating Virginia defense and shot 27.6-percent from the field and fell to the fourth-ranked Cavaliers 68-46.
The game started as poorly as it could for Louisville as it missed its first 11 shots and fell behind 13-1. Deng Adel made Louisville’s first field goal, a 3-pointer, with 10:42 left in the first half.
After scoring only 14 points in the first half of Louisville’s first meeting with Virginia on Jan. 30, the Cardinals were held to 17 points in Saturday’s first half. Shooting 25-percent from the field in the first half, Louisville trailed by 12 points at intermission.
The second half wasn’t much better for the Cardinals as Virginia grew its lead to 19 points five minutes into the half.
Playing in their final collegiate games, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis struggled to find their shot. The graduate transfers combined to shoot 5 of 22 from the field and scored 16 points. Donovan Mitchell led Louisville in scoring with 11 points, making 3 of 10 field goals.
It was Virginia’s vaunted pack-line defense that stymied Louisville. In four meetings against Virginia since joining the ACC, Louisville has struggled to figure out ways to score against Cavalier head coach Tony Bennett’s defensive scheme. The Cardinals are 1-3 against Virginia in the past two years.
Though Louisville had only seven turnovers, the Cardinals couldn’t get clean looks around the basket. Virginia halted Louisville’s perimeter game as well, holding the Cardinals to 4 of 22 from behind the arc.
In the low-post, Chinanu Onuaku faced foul trouble and left the game after playing 20 minutes. The sophomore center scored seven points on 3 of 8 shooting and added four rebounds.
As Onuaku watched from the bench, Virginia forward Mike Tobey dominated Louisville around the rim, picking up a double-double. Tobey had 15 points and a career-high 20 rebounds.
Coach Rick Pitino said the locker room was emotional after the game, players and coaches coming together at the end of a season filled with adversity. “It is difficult, it was actually much easier with these guys because they give such great effort,” Pitino said.
When asked questions about returning next season, Pitino said, “I intend on coming back after every year.”
Photo by Wade Morgen / The Louisville Cardinal