The Louisville Cardinals (13-1,1-0) kicked off their inaugural ACC basketball game with an 85-76 victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-7,0-2). Louisville took a 46-35 lead into halftime and appeared to be in control thanks in large part to Montrezl Harrell's 20 first half points, but Wake Forest came storming out in the second half and scored 10 unanswered points, which caused Rick Pitino to take two timeouts. Most of the cause of Pitino's frustration was that Louisville simply could not stop Wake Forest's Devin Thomas, who finished with a career-high 31 points and 11 rebounds.
The Deacs and the Cardinals battled it out for most of the remainder of the game, but the game turned on a number of critical possessions late in the game. Wake Forest had a 69-68 lead with 5:17 remaining when Mitchell Wilbekin took a pull-up three-pointer. It was an excellent look, but just did not drop. Louisville's Chris Jones came down and nailed a jump shot to take the lead and caused Danny Manning to take a timeout. Jones was excellent tonight and finished with 22 points on just 13 field goal attempts.
Jones also sealed the deal for Louisville with 1:09 remaining in the contest. Wake Forest was down five, but Jones made a very difficult long-two as the shot clock expired. Louisville making difficult long two's was the story of the night for an otherwise excellent Wake Forest half-court defensive effort. Everything went according to Wake's game plan, but Louisville just made difficult shots.
Wake Forest had just 12 turnovers on the game, which was a cause for concern entering tonight's contest. Louisville, however, only had 7. Wake Forest won the rebounding battle 36-35. Wake Forest got to the foul line 32 times, but only made 17 of them, which translates to 53%. Although Mitchell Wilbekin hit 3-6 3-point attempts, Wake Forest finished just 3-15 as a team. Louisville went 7-17, which is 13% higher than their season average.
I felt that this was Wake Forest's best performance on the season. They played very hard, did not commit too many turnovers, were very good in their man-to-man defense, but they just did not have enough firepower tonight.
Wake Forest will host #2 Duke on Wednesday at 9 p.m., while Louisville will host Clemson at the same time.