WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WDRB) — No looking ahead. No looking behind. No thinking about North Carolina. No dwelling on press clippings. No self-congratulations for climbing into the national rankings.
Just treating Wake Forest the way a top-15 team is supposed to treat Wake Forest. That is what the University of Louisville basketball team did Wednesday night at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, dispatching the Demon Deacons, 82-54.
"Obviously when you're playing a team that hasn't had much success, you worry about your own team," Mack said. "Now we move on to a big challenge (North Carolina) on Saturday, as big as it gets."
In a chilly building that appeared to be barely half full against a disinterested opponent that had lost six of its last seven games, Chris Mack’s Louisville basketball team played as relentlessly as if the Cardinals were trying to defeat Duke or Virginia.
And perhaps they were. By defeating the floundering Demon Deacons and inspiring the home crowd to abandon Danny Manning’s team early in the second half, Louisville moved back into a first-place tie in the Atlantic Coast Conference with the Blue Devils and Cavaliers at 7-1.
Beat the teams you’re supposed to beat. Beat them the way you’re supposed to beat them. That’s what Louisville has done this season — with two exceptions, but they traded an unexpected loss at Pittsburgh for a surprisingly emphatic victory over North Carolina.
The Cards led 6-0, 21-10, 38-18, 48-25.
"Every game in the ACC is going to be a battle, no matter the records," said U of L forward Dwayne Sutton. "We know this league is a brutal league. No matter if a team is 1-5 or undefeated, it’s going to be the same game.
"Teams like the that are not doing so well in the league are usually the hungriest. We wanted to come out in the first four minutes and set the tone."
Then it was halftime, time for a group of entertainers on pogo sticks to keep the attention of the crowd, which did not come close to filling the 14,665 seats in this renovated building.
"I tell our team all the time, when we go on the road, we have to be the same team we are in the practice gym," Mack said.
There was no longer much incentive to track play-by-play but if you expected Mack’s team to consider cruising through the final 20 minutes, think again. They outscored the home team 16-4 to begin the second half, stretching their lead to 64-29.
Duke beat this team by 22. Virginia handled the Demon Deacons by 23. If you worry about the comparative score game, the Cardinals (16-5) performed like a team that belongs at the top of the ACC with the league’s signature programs.
Who contributed for the Cardinals as they won their sixth straight?
Pick a name off the box score. Jordan Nwora continued his march toward serious consideration for first-team all-ACC. Credit Nwora with 20 points, including four of six shots from distance.
Khwan Fore scored only four points, but had four of the Cards first six points. He keyed a defense that ensured Wake made less than 30 percent of its field goal attempts.
Dwayne Sutton did not turn off his motor. He does not know how to do that. Sutton ran on high octane, giving the Cardinals 17 points and 10 boards.
Ryan McMahon flashed his three-point stroke, making four of six. Malik Williams was Louisville's four scorer in double figures, contributing 13 with eight boards.
Louisville returns home to play North Carolina Saturday at 2 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center. The Cards are on the road twice next week — at Virginia Tech Monday and at Florida State Feb. 9.
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