Second Half Surge Propels Virginia Past No. 4 Louisville

Courtesy Virginia Sports

The No. 12 Virginia basketball team (18-5, 8-3) went on a 22-5 run to begin the second half en route to a 71-55 home win against No. 4 Louisville (19-5, 17-4) in front of a raucous crowd at John Paul Jones Arena Monday night.

London Perrantes led the Cavaliers with 18 points while Isaiah Wilkins added 13 points along with 11 rebounds and five blocks.

It was “Big Monday” in college basketball which meant another high octane ACC matchup as well as scrambling in the rankings amongst the nation’s top teams. Virginia had just dropped three spots after losing two of its last three games before beating the Cardinals for the second time this season. Louisville had just advanced two spots in the rankings Monday morning.

The Cardinals were without two of their top three leading scorers – guard Quentin Snider and forward Deng Adel – as well as their center Mangok Mathiang. Snider was side-lined with a hip-flexor injury while Adel and Mathiang were suspended for missing curfew on Saturday.

V.J. King led the Cardinals with a career-high 24 points.

Louisville forced several turnovers in the first half, and used two alley-oop dunks and a few easy lay-ups inside to maintain a lead of 34-32 going into the half. They did this all without their typical full-court pressure defense.

The ‘Hoos came out strong in the second half with stifling defense and quick scoring. Virginia continued to shoot high-percentage shots and dominate the boards (38-19), but without the turnovers the Cavaliers were able to build a lead and keep it.

“I hope you guys liked it because I liked it a lot,” said Cavalier head coach Tony Bennett of the team’s second half defense. “I just know the crowd was into it, Isaiah [Wilkins] was terrific with his activity. Jack [Salt] was too, and our guys really tried to spread out and help each other. It wasn’t just one guy on the ball.”

The Cavaliers shot 53.2% from the field while holding the Cardinals to 37.0% from the field and 5-18 from 3-point range.

High-energy plays fueled the home team and the crowd throughout the second half. Wilkins and Salt provided key blocked shots, and Devon Hall, Darius Thompson, and Mamadi Diakite all hammered home break-away dunks.

Virginia matched a season-high with eight blocked shots in the game.

Wilkins, in addition to his impressive stat line, was all over the floor for loose balls, offensive rebounds, and he added an explosive dunk in the second half.

“He’s always been our heart and soul, our glue guy, pretty much since day one,” said Bennett.

Virginia gained solid contributions from the rest of their starters and the bench while Louisville relied on King and starting guard Donovan Mitchell for a combined 40 of their 55 points. Virginia’s bench outscored the Cardinal bench 21-6.

The Cavaliers travel to Blacksburg to take on rival Virginia Tech on Sunday.


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