Usually, a team that shoots 59.1 percent from the field and hits 17 of their 26 three-point attempts for 65.4 percent stands a great chance of winning. All that got visiting Virginia Tech today against No. 8 Louisville was an opportunity to stay in the game until the end.
The hot-shooting Hokies could not miss, but it was U of L’s defense that struggled most of the game, giving the Hokies plenty of open looks. While Rick Pitino was happy with the win, he did not enjoy the high scoring affair saying, “Look, they made tough shots. They made long shots. They have great shooters. They’re a dangerous, dangerous team. They’re doing a great job right now. You know, I’m really impressed with their team. What they’re doing and beating Virginia, they’re a great team. We just played great offense tonight and that’s why we came away with a victory, but I’ve been around this game too long. It’s nice to score 94 points. It’s nice to play this, but it’s better in AAU basketball than it is in college. It’s fun for the fans, but for a 64 year-old guy who prides in defense, and it’s not fun. The win is fun.”
Donovan Mitchell once again was the leader on offense for the Cardinals. He scored the first 13 points of the game for U of L and finished with 26 points. He also had five rebounds and two assists, but it was his hot outside shooting that was the key for the Cards. He hit five of seven 3-pointers.
Playing against a team that played mostly four guards for most of the game allowed the Cards to control the offensive glass. The Cards outrebounded the Hokies 16 – 6 on the offensive end and outscored the Hokies 26 – 3 in second chance points.
Jaylen Johnson was the main reason the Cards dominated the glass. Johnson scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, four of those coming on the offensive end.
Ray Spalding only played nine minutes, but came up with five points and five rebounds, four of those were offensive rebounds. All together not a bad night from the power forward position with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Hot 3-point shooting was not limited to Mitchell. Ryan McMahon is quickly becoming a fan favorite. He has no lack of confidence and brings energy and enthusiasm every time he steps on the court. McMahon played only nine minutes, but scored nine points while hitting three of his six 3-pointers. “Like I tell the guys, Ryan is the most confident guy on our basketball team. Ryan could miss seven and when he steps on the court he’s got moxie. He thinks he’s the best shooter in the nation, so it doesn’t surprise me with him, Pitino said. “That’s why I went with him in Syracuse and I went with him tonight. He’s not a guy that lacks confidence at all. He can be crafty, he’s playing better defense, so he’s stepping up for us in a big way, but he’s such a lethal weapon when you have him out there, it frees other people up. Obviously the fans love him just because he shoots it so well and he adds a different dimension to our basketball team.”
The Cards improved to (22 – 5, 10 – 4 ACC) on the regular season. The win puts them in position for an ACC title especially with Virginia’s loss to North Carolina today. The Tar Heels are one game ahead of the Cardinals heading into Wednesday night’s nationally televised showdown in North Carolina.