Virginia Tech-Louisville Preview
After a loss he thinks Louisville players will remember for a long time, Rick Pitino believes his Cardinals can’t afford to ‘have a hangover’ during its two-game homestand.
In a potential trap game ahead of a showdown with Duke, No. 6 Louisville will try to recover with its 38th consecutive home victory against an unranked opponent Tuesday night against Virginia Tech.
Pitino, in his 14th season at Louisville, said Saturday it was ‘as bad a loss as we’ve had in my time’ after the Cardinals (14-2, 2-1) blew a 13-point lead with 8:43 left in a 72-71 defeat at then-No. 18 North Carolina.
The ACC newcomers shot 47.5 percent for the game, but missed 8 of their last 10 shots. Wayne Blackshear’s 3-pointer and Terry Rozier’s off-balance attempt were off the mark after the Tar Heels made a go-ahead layup with 8.5 seconds left.
"We’ve got Virginia Tech coming up and Duke (on Saturday)," Pitino said. "We let a golden opportunity slip away (against North Carolina) and we’re very disappointed in that."
Pitino’s club has played better defensively at KFC Yum! Center, ranking fifth nationally with 49.7 points allowed per game. It also has limited opponents to a 32.7 field-goal percentage while forcing 19.0 turnovers per game at home.
The Cardinals, whose only home loss this season was 58-50 to No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 27, have won by average of 25.2 points during a home winning streak versus unranked foes that dates to Feb. 29, 2012.
They’ve taken 14 of 17 home matchups with Virginia Tech and 28 of 36 meetings overall, though the schools haven’t played since Louisville’s 78-74 home win Jan. 26, 1995 in Metro Conference play.
"Our players are very hurt by (Saturday’s loss), but that’s the ACC," Pitino added. "There will be a lot of games like this. A lot of great teams in the ACC. We’ll move on from there."
The Hokies (8-7, 0-2) have averaged 64.0 points and allowed 78.7 during a three-game slide after an 86-75 loss at Florida State last Tuesday. They had scored 75.8 while giving up 63.8 per game over a previous four-game winning streak.
Virginia Tech has been outrebounded by 42 over the skid, though Louisville owns a minus-4.5 margin in its last six games.
"We’re going to be size-deficient and we can continue to address it as best we can,” Hokies coach Buzz Williams said.
Justin Bibbs finished with a season-high 25 points and hit four 3-pointers last Tuesday, while backcourt mate Adam Smith had 24 points with five 3s. Bibbs has totaled 47 points and gone 8 of 17 from long range in his last two games.
The Hokies rank 12th nationally with a 40.4 3-point field-goal percentage. They could have a tougher time on the perimeter against the Cardinals, who have held opponents to 26.2 percent shooting from long distance at home.
Louisville’s Rozier has averaged 21.0 points in his last nine games and Chris Jones has scored 21.0 in conference play. Montrezl Harrell, who has totaled 15 points in his past two, is 23 shy of becoming the school’s 66th 1,000-point career scorer.
Virginia Tech has dropped 18 of 19 in league play, including nine in a row on the road. It’s also dropped the last 12 versus top 10 opponents by an average of 16.5 points.