In the opener, 50-48 in a defensive slugfest.
In the nightcap, a hang on by the hair on their chinny chin chin nail-biter, 67-64.
I’m going to weigh in on both.
First, the gentlemen.
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I’ve mentioned how I rarely focus on who does what for Cardinal foes.
Which doesn’t mean I don’t on occasion take note, when certain aspects of an opponent’s personnel jump off the page.
Like before yesterday’s encounter by the men’s team, when I noted that two players dominate the Ramblin’ Wreck’s scoring. Michael Devoe at 21 ppg. And Jordan Usher at 15 ppg.
So, I figured the Cards’ defensive philosophy would be whack off the heads, slay the beast. Makes sense, right?
So, how’d that work out?
Hmm, well . . .
Usher hit two triples during Tech’s first five possessions, then another to continue their fast start which pushed the Cards into a 6-13 hole early on.
At the 7:26 stoppage of the 1st, Usher already had 13, Devoe 8. 21 of the Yellow Jackets’ 24. (Interesting, U of L’s scoring was similarly imbalanced at that juncture. With 8 each, Malik Williams and Matt Cross had all but 3 of Louisville’s 19.)
So it proceeded for most of the night for Tech.
At halftime, GT’s dynamic duo had 21 of their 28. For the ballgame, each finished with more than their robust season average. Devoe with 23, Usher with 17.
So much for the chop the head etc etc theory.
Until the end.
Thanks to U of L’s Secretary of Defense.
Who, despite the game high numbers by the fellow he was checking all night, despite committing four fouls which forced him to sit during some key moments late, played another Great Defensive Game.
Tech’s ace, who handles the rock most of the time, had only 2 assists. West forced him into four turnovers.
And, when it mattered most, in the final gutwrenching minute, JW stopped him cold.
With U of L clinging to a two point lead, West forced Devoe into flinging up a hurried trey from beyond his range at :08. It didn’t come close.
Then on the game’s final sequence, U of L up by its final 67-64 margin, West forced Kyle Sturdivant to pick up his dribble, mandating that he, the lesser option, try and knot the score. After cutting off access to Devoe in the corner. That attempt also was errant.
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Almost immediately after the break,, Louisville surrendered its improbable three point halftime advantage.
Grinding its way through the tough but less than artfully contested tilt, Louisville retook the lead with 9:13 left, on a strong Dre Davis offensive board, follow deuce, and +1.
50-49. In a game that could have easily been lost, Louisville did not relinquish the lead from then on.
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If there are any other moments that can be considered “turning points,” a couple come to mind.
Both by Matt Cross, who was obviously much healthier than against Wake.
On an inbounds play with only :06 on the shot clock, the Miami transfer snared a great pass on the block, scored, got fouled and completed the +1, for 62-54 lead.
Which Tech whittled away at. Of course, they did, the Cardiac Cardinals have returned.
Making Cross’s nifty interception in the lane of an Usher pass with :28 left and the score 65-64, you know the word we use these days, HUGE!
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The Cards prevailed, despite not scoring from the field for the final 3:14 of action.
Malik Williams, 20 and 10.
Matt Cross, 13 and 9.
Dre Davis scored 13, all after the break, on 5/6 shooting.
Noah Locke netted 10. Sam Williamson played steady, both ends, finished with 3, four boards, and 4 assists.
Jarrod West had four assists. On defense, he was, all together now, tenacious.
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Another league W on the road gives U of L a 3-0 record in ACC play.
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A couple of observations about the 50-48 victory over the nation’s best defense in the afternoon opener.
The game reminded me of what I consider the most intense defensive one I’ve ever witnessed, U of L’s 46-50 L to Georgetown in the ’82 national semi-final.
Neither team on Sunday could do what they wanted on offense.
Until the end, when the Cards’ grit and determination, and Jeff Walz’s craftiness prevailed.
GT led 32-27 after the 3d.
Hailey Van Lith netted her first points from the field with 8:16 left, to pull U of L within two.
How the play was set up and executed was key to how the game was won in the final seconds. Emily Engstler took a pass in the high post. Van Lith, benefitting from a screen, cut across the foul line area from right to left, took a hand off, drove to the opposite side, foul line extended and drained a 12 foot jumper.
HVL’s second and last made FG came at :35 on the exact same set to tie the battle at 48.
After a stop, and an Olivia Cochran board, the Cardinals had the ball side out, after a Cardinal timeout.
Jeff Walz had set up the play to come.
With :14 on the clock, Louisville ran the exact same set as described above. Enstler to the top of the key. Van Lith cutting across the foul line area right to left. Except this time Engstler kept the rock, spun to her left, drove to the hoop, and scored the game winner essentially uncontested.
Georgia Tech was short handed for all the usual reasons these days. Only seven Yellow Jackets saw action, one for less than a minute. Eylia Love fouled out.
Knowing the home team was gassed, the Cardinal coach slyly started pressing GT full court in the 4th.
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A note for those who are advocating that Jeff Walz be named coach of the men, either along with his present duties, or instead of.
Cute idea. Probably not serious. At least for most.
It’s not going to happen.
But it has.
So, some trivia. The first college coach to switch from the women’s team to the men’s: Speedy Morris at LaSalle.
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Cards sweep Georgia Tech.
— c d kaplan