Virginia (21-1, 10-0) remains the only unbeaten team in ACC play after extending its best start in conference play since 1980-81. It holds a three-game lead over second-place Clemson and Duke, which the Cavaliers beat Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first time since 1995, with eight games to go in the regular season.
"Credit to Louisville. That is a talented team," Cavaliers Coach Tony Bennett said. "Well-coached. They exploited some things. We did not guard perfectly, and they made us look out of position at times. Offensively, we leaned on some things there, but guys made plays."
The victory in front of an announced crowd of 14,310 included a season-high 10 points from reserve freshman guard Marco Anthony, who played the second-most minutes of his career (18) in part because of Nigel Johnson's three-game suspension, which was announced shortly before tip-off.
Johnson is a regular contributor off the bench but will miss time for a violation of team rules, the school said. The Cavaliers did get back reserve guard-forward De'Andre Hunter, who left the Duke game late in the second half after rolling his ankle.
Adding to the degree of difficulty in facing Louisville (16-6, 6-3) were illnesses that kept starting guard Devon Hall (12 points, two assists, two steals) and backup forward Mamadi Diakite (six points in 12 minutes) from practicing until Tuesday.
Still, the Cavaliers managed to shoot 53.7 percent, their highest percentage in ACC competition this season and second-highest overall. They went 9 for 16 on three-pointers, making 6 for 9 in the second half, on a night when their normally stifling defense was hardly up to the lofty standard Bennett has set since arriving in 2009.
Virginia permitted its third-most points this season — and its most in ACC play — as Louisville (25 for 50) became the first opponent to shoot 50 percent against the Cavaliers. Forward Ray Spalding scored a team-high 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting, and forward Deng Adel had 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting for the Cardinals, who had won five of six entering Wednesday.
"Our guys competed for every single second of those 40 minutes," said Louisville interim coach David Padgett, who took over following the dismissal of Rick Pitino before the start of the season. "It is just a game where you literally have to tip your hat to the other team because they just made big plays and big shots. If you were going to tell me we would come in here and shoot 50 percent and score 64 points, I would have liked our chances."
The outcome began to tilt toward Virginia thanks to a spurt several minutes after halftime. Guy made two jumpers in that time, and Hall's three-pointer with the shot clock near expiration provided the Cavaliers with their first double-digit lead at 42-32.
The margin expanded to 50-36 on three-pointers from Anthony and Jerome as Virginia began to pull away, beating Louisville for the sixth time in seven meetings at home.
Johnson, a graduate transfer from Rutgers, is one of the Cavaliers' top reserves, averaging 5.5 points and 2.0 assists while playing 18.4 minutes. The Ashburn native, who played high school basketball at Riverdale Baptist, also will miss games against Syracuse on Saturday and Florida State next Wednesday, both on the road.
In an awkward coincidence, Johnson's picture was on the cover of the school's official program for Wednesday's game. But Anthony filled in admirably, playing for the first time since Jan. 23 against Clemson and shooting 4 for 6 with no turnovers against Louisville's pressure-oriented defense.
"He's just a guy who practices hard and waits his turn," Guy said. "I'm not surprised at all."
Anthony, who had played 66 minutes over the previous 21 games, sank the Cavaliers' first three-pointer with 6:36 to go in the first half for a 21-16 lead, but Louisville scored the next seven in a row until Guy made a long jumper to tie it.
Moments later, Guy came off a screen and swished a three-pointer followed by Jerome's three-point play for a 29-23 advantage. Guy curled around another screen, collected a pass from Hall and sank his second three-pointer with 18 seconds left to give Virginia a 32-26 halftime lead.
"Louisville will concern you because you know how good they are, but we didn't know" who would be able to play, Bennett said. "De'Andre did a little bit [Tuesday], so we were not sure if we were going to have him. I would have played De'Andre some on the perimeter, but I just did not think that he needed all those minutes, and Marco showed that he deserved those minutes."
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