Louisville might be cranking up at the right time.
The Cardinals re-emerged in the national rankings this week at No. 16, and they will try to add to their credentials Wednesday night in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C.
While Louisville (8-1, 3-0 ACC) has found its stride, Wake Forest (3-3, 0-3) hasn’t been so fortunate — though there have been positive signs for the Demon Deacons.
Louisville joins Virginia and Duke atop the conference standings, all at 3-0.
“It’s so early,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “I don’t know if we’ll play 20 ACC games, but we’re going to play a heck of a lot more than three. We have a long way to go. It beats being 0-3, I can tell you that.”
Wake Forest, which is coming off three consecutive road losses, will play its third straight game against a nationally ranked opponent.
The Cardinals didn’t play a weekend game because a matchup with Georgia Tech was postponed, so their most recent outing was a 73-71 home victory against then-No. 19 Virginia Tech on Jan. 6.
Mack vowed to make good use of the extra time between games.
“We need to do situational stuff,” he said, “(such as) handling the press with a couple minutes left in the game. We need to be able to rest a little bit.”
The latest schedule for Louisville shows that four of the first five ACC games will be on the road. The Cardinals already won at Pittsburgh and Boston College, and they head to Miami this weekend.
A bugaboo for the Cardinals is that they have committed fewer turnovers than opponents in only one game (vs. Western Kentucky on Dec. 1).
Wake Forest has committed more turnovers than its opponents in four consecutive games, most recently one more than host Duke while losing 79-68 on Saturday.
Virginia Tech’s point total was the largest Louisville has allowed in any of its eight victories. Only four foes have managed to shoot 40 percent or better from the field against the Cardinals.
Louisville received a boost from freshman Jae’Lyn Withers’ 16 points and 12 rebounds in the Virginia Tech game, his first double-double. He became the Cardinals’ first freshman with at least 12 rebounds and at least 15 points versus a league foe since Pervis Ellison (21 points, 13 rebounds) in a victory against Memphis State in the Metro Conference tournament championship game on March 9, 1986.
It’s a process with Withers.
“Jae’Lyn’s not always ready,” Mack said. “I don’t mean that in a game. He’s learning in the game. He’s a freshman.”
Getting a full performance from the Demon Deacons is the challenge for first-year coach Steve Forbes. In road losses last week to nationally ranked Virginia and Duke, they were competitive deep into the games — holding a halftime lead on the Cavaliers and sitting tied with the Blue Devils with just over 11 minutes remaining.
“Ultimately at the end of the day, we played 32 minutes,” Forbes said. “You’ve got to play 40 in this league.”
The Demon Deacons have been assertive at times. That was the case in the Duke game.
“We were aggressive on offense. We went to the line 21 times,” Forbes said. “We put a lot of pressure on their defense.”
Wake Forest sophomore forward Ismael Massoud posted a career-high 17 points on Saturday.
“Ismael has stepped up the last two games,” Forbes said. “He had eight rebounds. I’m proud of the way he played.”
–Field Level Media