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(2-4-20) The early tone for Wednesday night’s 9:00 p.m. matchup between the # 5 Louisville Cardinals and the unranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons was set an hour before tipoff. On the home side of the court, the Cardinals were loose, joking around and going through the pre-game motions. In contrast, vibes on the Wake Forest side were more of focus and high energy. It seemed as if the Demon Deacons could not wait to have their chance to knock off their heavily favored opponent.
And that energy difference continued after the tip. For the next 20 minutes of game time Wake Forest outshot, outrebounded, outhustled and outplayed the Cardinals. Louisville was again plagued by turnovers (nine). And Wake shot a blistering 60% from the field, including six made three-point shots.
Louisville went into the locker room facing its biggest deficit of the season at twelve, 46-34.
On the first possession of the second half, Louisville’s Fresh Kimble was fouled on a drive to the basket and only hit one of two free throws. The Deac’s Andrien White immediately drained a three. The lead was 14 and the tense groans of the home crowd grew louder.
What was going to stop the confident Demon Deacons and keep the Cardinals from suffering their worst loss of the season?
Apparently, a foul.
At the 18:03 mark, Louisville native and crowd favorite Dwayne Sutton was signaled for a foul when Wake Forest’s Andrien White appeared to sit on Sutton’s head during a scrum for a rebound. The crowd who had somewhat calmly sat through a stressful first half could not hold back anymore. Seemingly all 15,270 were on their feet expressing their disdain.
And they weren’t done. On the next Wake possession Louisville’s Darius Perry was called for another questionable foul. The boos actually turned into a very loud chorus of “Ref you suck”.
But maybe that dissatisfaction ended up being the inspiration Louisville needed. All of a sudden there was energy not seen from anyone but those on the visiting team. Louisville got the ball back and senior center Steven Enoch made his signature hook shot while drawing the third foul on the Deac’s Olivier Sarr. Two possessions later senior Ryan McMahon hit a three and was fouled by Wake’s Chaundee Brown. Both made their free throws. Then Kimble grabbed a rebound off a Wake miss and passed down the court to Jordan Nwora for a dunk, capping a 12-0 run and giving the Cards their first lead of the game at 52-51.
Louisville didn’t look back and extended the lead to as many as 13. They won with a final score of 86-76. A combined fifty-three total three-point shots were taken by both teams, with Louisville making 14 and Wake Forest eight.
Louisville was again led in scoring by Nwora who finished with 21. Sutton and Kimble were both critical to the Cards second-half comeback and also scored in double figures, as did Enoch. White led Wake Forest with 17.
After the game Louisville head coach Chris Mack had trouble speaking about the win without lamenting about his team’s poor first-half play. He did give Wake Forest a lot of credit saying he “thought Danny’s kids played their tails off”. But he was also frustrated by the turnovers and the inconsistency on defense. He went on to say that “we better figure it out quick or it’s going to bite us in the ass”.
Louisville is home again on Saturday and will face defending National Champion, Virginia at 4:00.