March 06, 2015

Louisville hasn't shot the ball nearly as well over the past month as it did earlier in the season, but coach Rick Pitino scoffs at the notion that the 16th-ranked Cardinals aren't an accurate team.

In a perfect example of contradiction, Pitino also said his squad's defensive play - among the best in the country in some key categories - isn't "great" after one so-so effort.

Louisville has shown it can win defensive standoffs as well as high-scoring affairs going into its home matchup with No. 11 Virginia in ACC play Saturday.

Damion Lee scored a season-high 29 points and Trey Lewis matched his season high with 22 as Louisville (17-3, 6-1) shot 51.9 percent in Wednesday's 91-83 victory at Virginia Tech. It certainly wasn't the best defensive effort for the Cardinals, who rank third in the nation in field-goal percentage defense at 36.9 and are giving up the fewest points per game in the ACC at 60.1.

"They're not bad in the half-court, they're non-existent in the full-court," Pitino said of the Cardinals' play at their own end. "We have to play more with our intellect than with our feet. We'll get it. We're getting better at it."

The coach seems considerably more forgiving when it comes to offensive play. Louisville is committing 11.7 turnovers per game, 11th in the 15-team conference. And despite the Cardinals shooting 49.1 percent on the season - good for 15th in the nation - they've hit just 44.7 percent in the past eight games.

Lee is averaging a team-high 17.2 points, with Lewis second at 12.7, and Louisville rediscovered its accuracy against the Hokies by making 51.9 percent.

"Believe me we live on defense, but we're not a great defensive team this year," Pitino said. "We are a terrific offensive team. We had one bad-shooting night - Clemson (the Cardinals' last loss Jan. 10) - and everyone thinks we're a bad-shooting team. Lewis and Lee can shoot the hell out of the basketball. And Lewis and Lee didn't make their reputations on defense."

Coach Tony Bennett's man-to-man scheme helped turn Virginia (16-4, 5-3) into a national defensive power, but the Cavaliers have slipped in that area this season, ranking 10th in the conference in field-goal percentage defense at 43.1 after finishing third in the nation with a 36.7 mark in 2014-15.

Virginia has won three straight, but it needed a 3-point heave from Darius Thompson that banked in at the buzzer to beat host Wake Forest 72-71 on Tuesday and completed a comeback from 10 points down with 1:23 left.

The Demon Deacons shot 53.5 percent - the highest for a Virginia opponent this season - and forced Bennett to go to a 1-2-2 zone for a short time. However, it was only the fourth time the Cavaliers have allowed at least 70 points.

"It was shocking," forward Anthony Gill said of the switch. "When (Bennett) said that, we all kind of looked at each other, and then we were just like, `All right, let's go out here and do it.' Whatever he calls, we trust it 100 percent."

The Cavaliers are shooting 52.7 percent during their winning streak and got a career high-tying 28 points from Malcolm Brogdon, who is averaging 23.0 during that stretch.

Virginia won for the first time in four ACC road games and will now try to avenge a 59-57 loss at Louisville on March 7. The Cavaliers won the first meeting last season 52-47 on Feb. 7 at home.

"We've got to improve," Bennett said. "The quality wasn't there the way we need it to be (Tuesday), but it did I guess get the monkey off our back as far as a road win in the conference."

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