CRAWFORD | Red, black and brown? UPS assist gets Louisville to must-win over Georgia Tech
Louisville overcame some travel nightmares, with the help of UPS, to beat Georgia Tech 65-50 in Atlanta on Saturday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The University of Louisville basketball team, the lone remaining winless team in Atlantic Coast Conference play, absolutely, positively had to win Saturday’s game at Georgia Tech, but it ran into a significant logistical problem.
So it’s little wonder they called UPS. That’s the only outfit, it turned out, that could deliver the Cardinals from their predicament at a frozen Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. The Cards already had delayed their Friday night flight to Saturday morning, hoping for more favorable conditions. The flight was fine. But as often happens at ATL, the problems began when they hit the ground.
There was no ground crew, no stairs, no equipment for deplaning that could get the Cardinals off their charter and on their way. So inside the plane, U of L officials started working the phones and wound up in contact with some friends at UPS, who figured out a way to spring the Cards from their cabin, even if the stairs they used weren’t a perfect match for the exit door.
Louisville arrived at Georgia Tech in plenty of time for its 2 p.m. game. Given all that went into getting to the game, the Cards could be forgiven for mailing it in. Instead, they turned in a dogged defensive effort and used a hot offensive start and finish to put away Georgia Tech, 65-50 in McCamish Pavilion.
Now, you can lump this into a pile of nameless, faceless league wins that the Cardinals were expected to get. And that’s fine. It certainly was a game they were favored to win, especially after Duke dispatched the Yellowjackets 53 during the week. But it was an important game for Louisville. And the last time Georgia Tech played in this building, it beat North Carolina by 12.
Louisville began the game like it had signed for the Express Option from UPS. It looked like it was ready to give Georgia Tech the Duke treatment, minus the tripping. The Cards made 4 of their first 5 three-point shots and scored 17 points in the game’s first 6 1/2 minutes.
“For us, that first four or five minutes it was like the movie Jaws or something,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “You’re just on the ocean and all of a sudden Jaws comes up and just comes and eats you. Other than that we played great. We gave every ounce of effort and energy and we tried the best we could.”
Louisville coach Pitino told Bob Valvano of the Louisville Radio Network on his postgame radio program that his players had been through a lot just to get to the game, then had to play without one of their leaders — Deng Adel — when he left the game with a concussion after 6 1/2 minutes.
Pitino said he told them, after their travel ordeals and getting up early, “We had to get a win today. So many things went wrong, plane hotel, concussion. Everything. We couldn’t warm up. I just told them, all I want to see is the best defense of the year. They played great defense, by and large, we go the ‘W,’ that’s all that counts. Now we’ve got to regroup.”
When the Cards needed it most — after Georgia Tech carved its deficit to just three points — guards Quentin Snider and Donovan Mitchell took over.
There was a three by Snider, then a three by Mitchell off a pass from Snider, then a couple of Snider free throws. The pair scored 21 of Louisville’s final 30 points, and Snider had the assist on one more of those scores.
It was not a good shooting day for the Cardinals even though they made 9 of their 16 threes. They went just 14 of 44 from two-point range, and shot just 38.3 percent overall. Mitchell finished with 20 points and Snider had 12 points and seven assists. Anas Mahmoud, who had six big points down the stretch, finished with10 points on 5-6 shooting and added five rebounds.
The Cardinals blocked 12 shots in the game and held Georgia Tech to just 34 percent shooting, while forcing 14 turnovers.
Georgia Tech big man Ben Lammers had a career-high 24 points. But he was the only Tech player to shoot better than 50 percent.
Louisville had one of its worst games in recent memory at the free-throw line, making just 10 of 20. But in the end, Pitino was pleased to be leaving Atlanta with the victory.
Adel’s status for Wednesday night’s game against Pittsburgh remains in question. V.J. King, on in the place of Adel, went just 1 for 7 from the field. But considering the difficulties, the Cardinals are content to tip their UPS guys, then head on back home.
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