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    It was the inaugural ACC game for the 5th ranked University of Louisville Cardinals (13-1, 1-0) traveled to Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina Sunday night to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-7, 0-2). Louisville had to grind out the win 85-76.

    Wake’s forte is hitting the glass. The Deacs rank sixth in rebounds per game and 16th in rebounding margin. On the other hand, the Cards need to improve on the boards and needed to be solid for the prime time meeting. Louisville succeeded on the boards.

    The Louisville game plan was obvious: get the ball to their All-American Montrezl Harrell early. They worked that plan to the detriment of other open players, but finally Wayne Blackshear knocked down a triple to start the scoring. Unfortunately, Blackshear disappeared after that.

    You could see Coach Rick Pitino’s thinking. Ever since Harrell’s ejection at Western Kentucky, he’s been out of sync. Wake Forest was the team to break the slump against. Then, within :20 seconds, he had a put back and a three and Trezz was back. He would close the first half with 20 points and 6 rebounds. The second half wouldn’t be as friendly to him. He finished the game with 25 points and 13 rebounds.

    The Cards also turned up the defensive pressure, which led to Wake turnovers and easy Louisville baskets. The Cardinal speed also bothered the Deacs. Coach Pitino mentioned in the pre-game that they like to run at home but not many teams can run with the Cards.

    Toward the end of the first half, Louisville’s play got a bit out of whack. Defense remained tough, but easy buckets didn’t fall on the other end. They regrouped, however, before too much damage was done. The half ended with the Cards leading 46-35. Foul trouble would be looming, however.

    To open the second half, foul trouble plagued the visitors. Chinanu Onuaku got his third in the first half. Early in the stanza number 2, Terry Rozier went to the bench with three himself. Wake used a 12-0 run to close the gap to one. Shaqquan Aaron hit a shot to stem the bleeding.

    The middle of the half saw the teams trade baskets and the lead but neither team broke away. After some fairly hot shooting, the Deacs started hitting their free throws, particularly when the Cards put them in the bonus.

    It also help Wake that they attacked the middle in an exact mirror image of what Louisville did to them in the first half. That type of play had Louisville reeling, though they were also able to keep up from a talent end.

    When Mangok Mathiang fouled out with 7:05 to go, a big body in the middle was gone. Anas Mahmoud and Onuaku had to pick up more minutes, though Onuaku had foul trouble all game so he had trouble staying on the floor. That left a young and light Mahmoud to try to clog up the middle.

    Chris Jones, the point guard that has spent a bit of time in the dog house stepped up his game at critical times, hitting big shots and drawing Demon Deacon fouls that sent him to the free throw line. Jones also distributed the ball with a career high 10 assists to go along with 22 points.

    Rozier, despite his extended time on the bench, scored 18. He fouled out with 23 seconds left.

    The Cards come back home to the KFC Yum! Center Wednesday for their ACC home opener against Clemson. That’s a 9pm tip.

    Photo by: Tim Girton/Louisville.com

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    About Tim Girton

    Tim Girton writes about University of Louisville sports here at Louisville.com and his love for Louisville continues on his photoblog, called This Is Louisville.

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