Defense and free throw shooting often are the difference in college basketball. A perfect example was Louisville's 93-83 victory over Virginia Tech tonight in front of 10,000 in Cassell Coliseum.
Virginia Tech (18-6, 4-4 in the Metro Conference) played much better than it had in its last game, when it was routed, 103-68, in Louisville last Thursday. But the 16th-ranked Cardinals (16-7, 5-2) made good on their 20-shot advantage at the free throw line, hitting 39 of 54, and harassed the Hokies enough so that they shot only 41.7 percent from the floor.
"They had two more field goals, but we made a good percentage (72.2) of our free throws," Louisville Coach Denny Crum said. "I don't know if we've ever shot that many free throws in a half before (they made 31 of 41 in the second), but they were all fouls. When somebody hit somebody, they made sure they were hit."
It was a Louisville record for most free throws made in a half, and left the Cardinals two short of the team record for attempts in a game. Six Virginia Tech players fouled out, including its two leading scorers, Keith Colbert (25 points) and Dell Curry (22).
Billy Thompson led Louisville with 25 points, with Jeff Hall scoring 21 and Milt Wagner 17. In the second half, when the Hokies were gambling while trying to come back from as much as a 17-point deficit, Thompson made 11 of 12 free throws and finished the game 13 for 17. He also blocked a game-high eight shots.
Wagner, who had just four points in the first half while being guarded by Curry, got that many in the first minute of the second half as Louisville outscored Virginia Tech, 14-4, in the first 3:21 of the half.
The Hokies' poor shooting (36.8 percent in the first half) continued early in the second half. They went one for six while Louisville was moving to a 56-44 lead with 16:19 to go.
"Usually the first five or six minutes of the second half sets the tempo," Crum said. "As it was, they had to run and play catch-up, and that's crucial because you've got to be ahead going down the stretch and then you've got to make the free throws."
Virginia Tech Coach Charles Moir thought his team was in good shape, down just 42-40 at halftime.
"We were only down two and I felt pretty good," Moir said. "But they made that run at the start of the second half, and we had to do a lot of gambling."
Colbert made an 18-footer from the left wing to make it 60-50, but the Cardinals then went on another spurt.
Thompson started it with a jumper and two free throws, and freshman center Pervis Ellison's basket gave Louisville its biggest lead of the game at 68-51 with 11:41 left.
But neither the Hokies nor their vociferous fans would quit. George Caesar made two free throws and Phil Williams made two more to cut the deficit to 78-68 with 7:50 to go. Bobby Beecher blocked Wagner's shot and Curry fed Colbert on the fast break to cut it to 78-70.
Wagner hit two free throws but, after a timeout, Curry hit a pullup 18-footer. Wagner hit two more free ones with 6:18 left.
Virginia Tech's Tim Anderson missed the front end of a one-and-one, but he came back to steal the ball and go the length of the floor for a three-point play to make it 82-75 with 5:39 left.
Curry made his last point of the game on a free throw with 4:15 left, after a technical foul on Herbert Crook, to cut the Louisville lead to 84-78. But Virginia Tech got no closer.
"They play really tough defense and switch on all their picks, so it was tough to run the offense," Curry said. "They had too big of a lead. When it's 10 points, you can make a run and have it work, but when it's 15 or more, it's much tougher." Memphis State 99, Florida State 73
Baskerville Holmes and Dwight Boyd scored 20 points each as the third-ranked Tigers (22-2) won the Metro Conference game at home. UNLV 79, California-Santa Barbara 71
Anthony Jones had 25 points and Armon Gilliam 23 points and 10 rebounds as Nevada-Las Vegas, at home, won its 15th in a row. The Rebels are 24-2, 12-0 in the PCAA. The Gauchos are 9-12, 4-8. Bradley 74, Illinois State 67
Hersey Hawkins scored 19 points and Jim Les had 18 to lead No. 13 Bradley over the host team in a Missouri Valley Conference game. Bradley (24-1, 11-0 in the MVC) has won 15 straight. UDC 79, Elizabeth City 77
In Elizabeth City, N.C., Lyndon Debellotte scored four of his team-high 20 points in overtime for the Firebirds.
UDC (13-8) led at the half, 36-28, but Elizabeth City (12-10) forced overtime at 69-69 behind Tim McDaniel, who finished with 34 points and 17 rebounds. Johnny (D.C.) Jones had 17 points and 12 rebounds for UDC.