The Louisville men’s basketball team improved to 8-1 on Wednesday night with a 73-71 over Virginia Tech at the KFC! Yum Center. The Cards are now sit alone atop the ACC with a 3-0 record. Virginia Tech falls to 8-2 and 2-1 in conference play.
Carlik Jones led Louisville with 17 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. David Johnson also scored 17 points with 5 rebounds and 1 assist. Jae’Lyn Withers added 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Cards shot 47.5 percent from the field and made 6 of 16 three-point attempts.
For Virginia Tech, Jalen Cone led all scorers with 23 points. Nahiem Alleyne added 15 points and 3 assists. Keve Aluma finished with 11 points and 5 boards. The Hokies were held to 42.6 percent from the field and only connected on 9 of their 30 three-point attempts.
Virginia Tech raced out to an 11-0 lead within the opening three minutes of the first half. Louisville responded with a 9-0 run of its own and would not stop there. The Cards led by as many as 8 points in the half and went into the break up 36-31.
Out of halftime, Louisville went on an 11-2 run to extend its lead to 14 points. Virginia Tech responded, but the Cards’ lead was never cut below 5 points in the second half.
After a nightmare start, Louisville really took over on both ends and controlled the game. Jae’Lyn Withers took advantage of the Hokies’ undersized frontcourt and had one of the best games of his young career. In the second half, Carlik Jones and David Johnson took over to lead Louisville to its first win over a ranked opponent this season.
This was an encouraging performance from Louisville. Jones and Johnson both ended up filling the stat sheet, but it was a group effort in the first half after the Cards went down double digits. Withers, Quinn Slazinski and Josh Nickelberry were particularly impressive in that first half. The entire team locked down on defense, and it probably would not have been as close if not for the individual effort from Jalen Cone. That being said, they allowed Virginia Tech to hang around, and the Hokies even had a three point shot at the buzzer that would have won them the game. We need to start seeing Louisville do a better job of closing out these games.
Louisville is now 8-1 with another full week off before its next game. Expect the Cards to be ranked in both polls next week. They sure look like one of the best 25 teams in college basketball.
Louisville is headed back on the road next Wednesday for a conference matchup with Wake Forest at 6:30 p.m.