No. 2 Virginia: The Cards' kryptonite
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - "They've obviously been our kryptonite in this league for the last three years, so hopefully we can change that this year," UofL coach David Padgett said.
That kryptonite is Virginia. The Cavaliers have beaten the Cards four straight times and have held UofL to fewer than 60 points in the last six meetings.
"You've got to try to be the better defensive team," UofL sophomore Ryan McMahon said. "And that's easier said than done, cause they're one of the best defensive teams in the country. They're suffocating, so you've just got to try to be efficient and execute and take it possession by possession and try to get out of the there with a win."
McMahon's three late in the first half last year in Charlottesville gave the Cards a 30-25 lead. The eventually led 34-32 at the break, only to be outscored 39-21 in the second half.
That half was the lone bright spot for UofL in the teams' last four meetings.
In those games, they have been outscored 268-201. The Cards have shot just 34.6 percent from the field (71-205) and 23 percent from three (15-65).
"From my experience the last couple of years, the number No. 1 thing is to control the pace," UofL senior Anas Mahmoud said. "They want to play slow, they want to have limited possessions, and we can't fall into that trap. We've got to make them play our pace and play our game, which is really difficult to do."
Mahmoud said that while controlling the pace is paramount, it is also important not to play into UVA's hands.
"They force you to take quick shots, and we can't fall into that trap," Mahmoud said. "We've got to run our offense."
V.J. King was the lone bright spot on offense in the 71-55 loss last February. He got the start in place of Deng Adel, who did not make the trip. Adel and Mangok Mathiang were suspended for the game.
King played 37 minutes and scored a career-high 24 points. He hit 8-14 field goals, including 3-5 from three.
"I would say just staying patient in our offense, getting great shots and finding each other, but it starts with defense," King said. "We've got to be together on defense and we've got to play extremely hard every single possession."
Virginia is ranked No. 2 in the nation. The Cavaliers are 20-1 and have won 12 in a row, including a 65-63 win at No. 4 Duke on Saturday. They received 17 first-place votes in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Their only loss was a 68-61 setback on Dec. 5 at West Virginia.
"Every time you come into a game, you've got to treat them like you're playing the best team in the country, so you're not going to see any letdown from us," McMahon said. "They've had our number the last few years, so we're going to come out and play with some passion and play with some aggression and have fun."
The Cards and UVA tip off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night in John Paul Jones Arena. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
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