Louisville looks to end struggles against Virginia
Louisville men’s basketball takes its nine-game winning streak to a team it has lost nine straight times to. The Cardinals (20-3 overall, 11-1 in the ACC) host Virginia at the KFC Yum! Center Feb. 8.
Louisville has struggled against Virginia more than any other team in recent years. With a well-known pack-line defense, the Cavaliers (15-6 overall, 7-4 in the ACC) led the nation in scoring defense by limiting opponents to 50.4 points per game.
Virginia also ranks first nationally in field goal percentage defense at 35.6 percent. Louisville coach Chris Mack said his team had success scoring in transition last season in two games against the Cavaliers and won’t change offensively.
“It’s getting the best shot we can,” Mack said. “That doesn’t change from game to game, Virginia makes it harder.”
Mamadi Diakite and Jay Huff, two forwards that contest shots around the rim, have played more together than in years past, Mack said. He wants Louisville to play through Virginia’s physicality.
Diakite, a 6-foot-9 fifth year senior, Huff, a 7-foot-1 redshirt junior, have combined to block 62 shots this season.
“They have always been really big around the rim,” Mack said. “They have always made it difficult to score in the lane. They are very discipline.”
Diakite is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 13.5 points along with 7.0 rebounds per game. Braxton Key, a 6-foot-8 guard, averages 10.7 points and 7.4 rebounds.
Virginia is averaging just 56.0 points per game because of a deliberate offensive attack. The Cavaliers work possessions late into the shot clock to limit team’s transition opportunities.
The Cavaliers’ offense and defense goes hand-in-hand.
“They slow the game down, they want to play at their pace. It’s hard to speed up a slow team and it’s just how they want to play on offense,” Mack said. “On defense, they are one of the best teams in the country. The way that they play with that pace sort of aids their defense.”