LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Before the University of Louisville visited Georgia Tech in Atlanta late Saturday afternoon, there were three primary questions:
Which version of the Yellow Jackets would the Cardinals face?
The one that went to Syracuse Jan. 12 and beat the Orange by 14, only two days before Syracuse won at Duke?
Or would it be the Georgia Tech team that whiffed against Georgia as well as Gardner Webb at McCammish Pavilion?
Even the wise-guys in Las Vegas were uncertain. The point spread Saturday was Louisville favored by four.
Give the points. Give two, three, four, five times that many. Louisville won from Atlanta to Savannah, thundering past the Yellow Jackets, 79-51.
I’m not certain which Georgia Tech team showed up but Louisville did its absolute best to ensure that it was the Yellow Jackets at their absolute worst. Tech was without three of its top seven guys because of injuries and personal issues -- and Louisville never let the Yellow Jackets believe an upset was possible.
"I was really pleased with our guys’ readiness to play," Mack said. "We’re coaching college guys and they see on Twitter that three [Georgia Tech] players aren’t playing and you never know what they’re thinking.
"So for our team to have the maturity to come out in the first half and really rely on our defense and play hard and be ready to play. That was the biggest thing."
The final score was somewhat misleading because the Cardinals played without an ounce of pressure in the second half. Louisville raced to a 43-16 halftime lead and then quickly stretched the advantage to 49-20.
"You’ve got to give Louisville credit, they played really well," said Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner. "Jordan Nwora was excellent; he really got them going that first half.
"It just kind of snowballed us that first half like it did against Clemson. We just dug ourselves such a hole and it was hard for us to get back out of it."
Jordan Nwora, Louisville’s sophomore forward, continued to play like one of the most improved players in the country as well as one of the best all-around guys in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Credit Nwora with 25 points. He made three of seven shots from distance and grabbed eight rebounds. Dunks? Some of those, too.
Center Steven Enoch has also become a force. He scored 15, making six of nine shots with six boards. Another big man, Malik Williams, was the third Louisville player in double figures. Williams made a pair of shots from distance while scoring 13.
Expect no complaints from Mack about Louisville’s defense. It was unrelenting. Georgia Tech threw the ball away 17 times. Georgia Tech made only 38 percent of its field goal attempts and just one of 10 from distance. The 51 points were the second fewest Tech has scored this season.
Ranked 26th in the Associated Press college basketball poll last Monday, Louisville will rocket back into the Top 25 when the next vote is announced on Monday. It was the Cards' third straight victory since their overtime defeat a Pittsburgh.
"I like the defense, personally," Mack said. "I think the last three games, we’ve talked about if you get three-consecutive stops, we sort of label that a ‘kill.’ If you can get seven ‘kills’ in a game, you’re awful difficult to beat unless your offense is just inept.
"We have too good of players and we’ll be out in transition enough that offense should never be an issue. It’s the first time, we’ve had three games in a row now, two on the road, where we’ve gotten seven or more ‘kills.’ ”
The Cardinals have surged to 4-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. With Duke defeating Virginia Saturday evening in Durham, N.C., the Cavaliers slipped to 4-1, too, creating a six-way atop the league with U of L, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Syracuse.
Louisville should be favored to win its next three — home games with North Carolina State (Thursday) and Pittsburgh (Saturday) before a trip to lowly Wake Forest on Jan. 30.
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