Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Louisville rolls past FSU, awaits Virginia in ACC tourney quarters

Deng Adel lets a baseline jumper fly during Louisville's ACC Tournament win over Florida State. The Australian forward finished with 15 points and eight rebounds as Cardinals moved into quarterfinals. (Photo by Jason Schott/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Jason Schott (@JESchott19)

BROOKLYN -- Louisville started its first game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament needing a win to maintain their standing on the NCAA Tournament bubble, and ended it by earning a date with the No. 1 team in the nation.

The No. 9 seed Cardinals defeated eighth-seeded Florida State Wednesday afternoon, 82-74, in the first matchup of the tournament's second day of action at Barclays Center, with the final score not truly indicative of how much Louisville dominated the majority of the contest.

After trailing the Seminoles by three through eight minutes, the Cardinals (20-12) took control shortly thereafter, uncorking an 18-3 run that stretched into a 27-5 spurt to end the half, as Ryan McMahon's three-pointer at the buzzer gave Louisville a 41-22 lead to take into the locker room. 

The advantage would grow to as many as 26 after Quentin Snider's three with 11:35 remaining, but Florida State (20-11) would battle back, drawing within eight with 3:26 left after Braian Angola's two free throws made the score 78-70, but Louisville would seal the game on the foul line in the final minute.

The Cardinals, who shot nearly 51 percent from the floor Wednesday, were led by Snider's 19 points, which he supplemented with six assists -- against zero turnovers -- and five rebounds. Ray Spalding added 18 points while Deng Adel chipped in with 15 points and eight boards. Dwayne Sutton had 10 points and six rebounds off the bench.

"We knew they were going to make a run," head coach David Padgett, who earned the win in his postseason debut, said of the Seminoles. "I get 100 times more nervous about games like that when you have a big lead, especially at halftime, than actually if you're down. If we're tied or down at the half I'm actually more calm, but those are tough because you know the other team is going to make a run. But I thought our guys did a great job of executing our late-game situations, our full-court pressure situations and taking care of the ball. They only had nine turnovers against a team that athletic and that presses that much is a big reason why we won the game and also the backboard."

Padgett said of holding on to their big lead down the stretch, "Well, we did a good job of taking care of the ball. I don't know how many turnovers we had in the first half, but we only had nine for the games, and they picked us up full court the entire second half. We did a very good job of running our press break offense of getting the ball into the right person's hands, and we just made good decisions. We stayed confident. We didn't panic when it got close. And fortunately we've been in this situation a lot before, it just hasn't always turned out in our favor, but tonight it did, so we're very happy with that."

The victory, which positioned Louisville as the tenth ACC team with 20 or more wins this season, strengthens the Cardinals' case for an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament, a resume that would become even stronger should Padgett pull off the upset against top-ranked Virginia, who defeated Louisville on the Cardinals' home floor with a frantic comeback in the final seconds, capped off by a three-pointer at the buzzer from freshman De'Andre Hunter.

"Well, this win certainly helped," said Padgett. "It's a team that's been ranked in and out of the top 25 all year. We've beat them twice now, so yeah, we feel it helped getting that 20th win. I don't know if any of us know if there's a definitive answer to what's required to get into the tournament. We've tried to approach it one game at a time and we just said we have to try to win this game so we can advance in the ACC Tournament. Our focus now is just going to turn to Virginia, a team that we've lost to twice and who we've played well against, so I know if we're able to come out and get a win tomorrow against the No. 1 team in the country that I would surely think they're in."

"Look, last Thursday was tough, there's no denying that. "But we haven't said, 'Well, we've got to beat Florida State so we can get to Virginia.' No, we just said we've got to beat Florida State so we can move on. Virginia is going to be ready for us, as they have been all year, and we just have to come out and just leave it all out on the court. We've played well against them both times, but that doesn't change the outcome. We came up short both times. We've got to be ready to compete for 40 minutes tomorrow against the best team in the country."

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