No. 11 Louisville ends season with loss at No. 4 Virginia
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Virginia wasn't the only team to find Senior Night emotional on Saturday at John Paul Jones Arena.
While the fourth-ranked Cavaliers won 68-46 and will head to Washington, D.C. for the Atlantic Coast Conference this week, No. 11 Louisville's season ended because of a self-imposed postseason ban over recruiting violations.
"Some people did the wrong thing and this team has to pay the price for that," coach Rick Pitino said after emerging from what he described as a very emotional locker room. Like Virginia, the Cardinals (23-8, 12-6 ACC) came into the regular season finale hoping to win and wind up with a share of the regular-season title.
Instead, they saw what they can aspire to be, Pitino said.
"What you have to be, with all these young guys, is you have to hope to be Virginia some day, a well-oiled machine like they are because they have guys that have played together that cover for each other," he said.
"We have guys that give great effort, but they're not a synchronized machine yet."
Rick Pitino post-game sounded like a guy who expects to coach Louisville next season. Said David Padgett will replace Ralph Willard.
The Cardinals will lose senior transfers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis as well as Dillon Avare. Pitino said he's excited not only about the players he has coming back, but that they went through adversity this season, handled it like professionals and will benefit from that experience going forward.
"We did the right things this year and we handled adversity with as much class as can possibly be held," he said.
The Cavaliers, who honored four scholarship seniors and one walk-on before the game, got contributions from all of them starting with Evan Nolte's two 3-pointers in the early minutes as they opened up a 13-1 lead.
Mike Tobey had 15 points and a career-high 20 rebounds, Malcolm Brogdon overcame a slow start and scored seven points and Anthony Gill had 15 for Virginia (24-6, 13-5), which is the No. 2 seed at the ACC tournament.
The game couldn't have started worse for Louisville.
Already manhandled 63-47 by Virginia at Louisville on Jan. 30, the Cardinals missed their first 11 field goal attempts, trailed 13-1 until their first field goal with 10:40 left in the first half and never threatened.
Mangok Mathiang says he has no idea where transfer to Nebraska rumor started. but that he intends to return to Louisville.
The night, though, was a love fest for the Virginia seniors, who are now within six victories of having the most in a four-year period in program history. The Ralph Sampson-led Virginia teams in 1980-83 won 112 games.
With about a minute to go, Virginia coach Tony Bennett pulled all the scholarship seniors off the floor and inserted walk-on Caid Kirven, all five drawing thunderous applause for their contributions to the program.
Moments later, it was even louder after Kirven, who had just one field goal in 10 prior appearances this season, promptly threw in his first 3-pointer of the season.
Louisville: In its first three halves against Virginia this year, Louisville totaled 64 points, or 12 fewer than their 76-point average for all games.
Virginia: Nolte's two 3-pointers marked his first game with multiple 3s this season. ... Tobey had 18 rebounds in all of February.
The Cardinals' season is over because of a self-imposed postseason ban.
Virginia will play Thursday in the ACC tournament quarterfinals in Washington, D.C