By Micah Brown —
Despite a 10-point halftime lead over visiting Virginia (24-2, 12-2), Louisville men’s basketball (18-10, 9-6) failed to hold its edge and lost to the Cavaliers for the eighth consecutive time. The final score read 65-52 as the Cardinals picked up their fourth loss in five games.
The Cards came out swinging, accumulating as large as a 12-point lead in the first half. Success behind the arc was the name of the game, as the team converted on 10 three-point attempts across the 20 minutes. Virginia on the other hand, the ACC’s leader in three-point shooting, converted zero three-pointers and trailed 37-27 at the break.
Head coach Chris Mack has voiced concerns about his squad’s energy level for the past few games, as Louisville has failed to hold leads over opponents. Sure enough, the Cardinals could not carry their positive momentum into the second half versus Virginia.
“To come out with the energy level that we did for the first four minutes really set the tone,” Mack said. “We knew and should know that you’re gonna have some droughts. We had those droughts in the first half and didn’t let it affect us at all. To me, that’s hard to understand.”
Virginia capitalized on the home team’s lack of energy to erase the halftime deficit and tie the game at 41-41 six minutes out of the break. The Cavs shot poorly from the three-point line but dominated down low, holding a 38-4 points in the paint advantage by the end of the game.
Momentum shifted further in Virginia’s favor after a tough call against Louisville. Referees cited sophomore Jordan Nwora for a charge, despite the opposing Virginia defender having a foot in the restricted area. The call was not reviewed, Nwora’s three-point play was erased and Mack received a technical foul for arguing the outcome.
Virginia went on to lead 51-47 with 7:40 remaining.
As mentioned above, the lack of production from Louisville’s bigs proved to be the ultimate difference maker. Sophomore Malik Williams and junior Steven Enoch combined to shoot a mere 2-for-16 from the floor, fumbling the battle in the paint.
“We gotta be able to score around the basket, break droughts, produce offensive rebounds and put-backs, finish through contact.” Mack said. “We’re just not there yet.”
Louisville failed to close in during the final minutes and lost 64-52.
Next up, the Cardinals travel to face Boston College on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. In order to solidify favorable NCAA tournament chances, Louisville must win at least two out of its last three games. Notre Dame at home and Virginia away follow after Boston College.
You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.
Photos by Gabriel Wiest / The Louisville Cardinal