by Dan Gardella
Brooklyn – Entering the ACC Tournament, Louisville was playing for their NCAA Tournament lives. After completing their first order of business with their win over Florida State, they had a chance to solidify their spot in the field of 68. The only thing that stood between them and dancing? The Virginia Cavaliers, the ACC regular season champions.
A week after an improbable comeback mounted by the Cavaliers inside the KFC Yum Center, the Wahoos would not need a miraculous comeback to advance to the semi-finals of the ACC Tournament with a 75-58 victory over the Cardinals Thursday afternoon.
Although Virginia’s defense was one of the best in the nation, it did not look like it within the first four minutes as Louisville knocked down three of their first four shots and jumped out to an 11-7 lead heading into the first media timeout. After that however, the hammer was dropped on the Cardinal offense as they had long scoring droughts and only managed to score 16 points in the last 16 minutes.
“I think we tightened up a little more and a majority of the game they (Louisville) had to earn their baskets.” said Virginia head coach Tony Bennett
After their slow start, Virginia’s offense which Louisville head coach David Padgett called “underrated” began to run. The Cavaliers outscored the Cardinals 31-16 in the final 16 minutes to finish the first half ahead 38-27.
The story, like it has been all season was balance. The Wahoos had five players score in double figures, led by their go-to guy Kyle Guy. After going down in the first half of the season finale against Notre Dame with a knee injury, Guy, who featured a knee brace on his left knee scored a game-high 19 points. Virginia also got an added bonus from redshirt sophomore Mamadi Diakite who scored 10 points and added four rebounds.
“I thought he gave us a real nice lift.” Said Bennett. “Some of the moves and put backs he had were key.”
Although Virginia led for 34 minutes of the game, Louisville hung around and eventually cut the lead to as little as four when they trailed 56-52 with nine minutes remaining. From there, the Cardinals stalled on offense once again, scoring only five points in the final nine minutes.
Ray Spalding led the Louisville (20-13) offense with 16 points as they now look ahead to Selection Sunday to find out if they will be dancing. In Padgett’s eyes, his team has done enough.
“Without a doubt. Unfortunately, that’s not my decision. If you look at our body of work, we did nothing wrong.” Said Padgett.
Virginia (29-2) face either Clemson or Boston College in the semi-finals of the tournament.