LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Take a snapshot of the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball standings.

Scan past the teams coached by Jim Boeheim, Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams, Hall of Famers all of them.

Go directly to the top of the 15-team list where you’ll find Tony Bennett’s irrepressible Virginia team. The team nobody wants to play. The Cavaliers have won all nine of their league games. Kudos to Bennett and his guys.

Drop down one spot, to second place.

That is precisely where you will find David Padgett’s University of Louisville team after the Cardinals dispatched sagging Wake Forest, 96-77, Saturday night at the KFC Yum! Center. Down nine early, the Cardinals hung 54 points on the Demon Deacons in the second half. For the game, Louisville averaged better than 1.2 points per possession.

"We’re right where we want to be," U of L center Anas Mahmoud said. "We’re second in the league right now. I can’t be more proud of the guys than that."

The bumped Louisville’s ACC record to 6-2, a half-game ahead of Duke. Both U of L league losses were on the road. Both were in overtime.

Overall, the Cards are 16-5 with a game at Virginia Wednesday. The Cards won't score 54 points in the second half at Virginia. In their last six games against the Cavs, Louisville has failed to score 54 points in the game four times.

"I don't even want to talk about what we have coming," Padgett said. "Being in second place after eight games is good ... Overall pretty pleased because our guys are playing well."

"You watch them on tape and you look at their stats and they have a lot of wonderful attributes," Wake coach Danny Manning said. "But the one thing that you can't match is their length and athleticism ... contesting shots at the rim, length, athleticism and switching ball screens where they're switching some of their bigs on guards and doing a pretty good job of staying in front.

The Cardinals started as if somebody told them the game started at 8:15 p.m., not 8. They trailed 8-2, 10-4 and 17-8. Manning’s team did not look like a group that had defeated only Syracuse in eight ACC games. "We took a few shots that were a little quick," Padgett said.

Padgett didn’t flinch. Neither did his guys. Sure, he waved several substitutes off the bench. Mahmoud delivered. So did freshman guard Darius Perry. And Jordan Nwora, another rookie.

By halftime Louisville had surged to a 42-33 lead.

"We’ve been through it all year," said U of L forward Deng Adel. "We just have to find the right lineups that work each game.

"I think we played extremely well. The biggest thing is everybody got on the floor. Everybody played unselfish. We sped them up defensively."

The second half? The Cardinals played some of their best basketball season, punishing Wake Forest with lobs, threes, crisp passes and an unrelenting offensive punch. Padgett was able to rest his starters for a long stretch of the second half. Nobody played more than 25 minutes. The Cards passed with ball with precision.

"Twenty assists on 36 field goals," Padgett said. His team shot 50.7 overall, 40 percent from distance, making 10 threes, their second-best total in ACC games.

Twenty was the number of the night. Not only did the Cardinals have 20 assists. They also forced 20 Wake Forest turnovers. 

Five Louisville players scored from distance, led by Perry, who made three triples. Quentin Snider and V.J. King led Louisville with 15 points. Eight Louisville players had at least one assist, led by King and Adel. Each had four. Neither had any when Louisville lost at Miami last Wednesday.

"It's why this group is so special because they pull for each other so much," Padgett said.

You know what’s next for Louisville, the Cardinals’ most difficult assignment of the season, a game at second-ranked Virginia.

All the Cavaliers did Saturday was beat Duke in Durham, pushing their ACC record to 9-0 and reinforcing their calling card as the most formidable defensive team in the league.

In three ACC seasons, Louisville has lost five of six games against Virginia. The Cardinals are winless in three trips to Charlottesville and have been beaten by an average of more than 14 points.

Virginia’s last home loss was to Miami last Feb. 20.

"To go into Cameron and beat Duke, arguably the most talented team in our league says a lot," Padgett. "Obviously they've been our Kryptonite."

"Obviously they’re the Number 2 team in the country so it’s a tough place to play," Adel said. "We’ve just got to make sure we stay together and just generate a lot of energy, like we did today."

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