Carlik Jones scored 23 season highs to help the Cardinals beat the Demon Deacons 77-65 Wednesday night and extend their best start to the Atlantic Coast Conference game.
Samuell Williamson added 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Cardinals (9-1, 4-0 ACC), who first let a 14-point lead slide all the way to four in the first half. Then, after pushing forward by 16 after the break, Louisville saw the Wake Forest climb up within a point.
“I think it’s very clear at times that we have a very young team that will give up a few easy ones and give someone a chance to get back in the game,” Mack said.
The Cardinals had problems with bad problems – especially with David Johnson taking his fourth foul with more than 12 minutes left – as well as several players dealing with cramps. Still, Louisville never gave up the lead until he finally put this one away in the final 6 minutes.
Jones said the message among the players in the gap was “to just stick together and fight it and dig it out, and I think that’s what we did tonight.”
Louisville shot 51% to reach 4-0 in the league, marking the program’s best since joining the ACC before the 2014-15 season. It marked the best start in any league since for the Cardinals since they won their first eight Big East games in the 2008-09 season.
Daivien Williamson scored 19 points for the Demon Deacons (3-4, 0-4), who fell behind 50-34 lead just 90 seconds after the break after passing consecutive baskets without turnover. They scrambled back within a point in the middle of the second half, only to walk 9 1/2 minutes without a basket to waste a shot on a disturbance.
Wake Forest shot just 9 of 29 (31%) after the break, including 2 of 14 behind the 3-point arc.
“I’ll have to go back and look, but I’m pretty sure we have a lot of wide open looks,” first-year Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes said. “And we have to make them.”
Louisville: The Cardinals ran a 16-0 run to lead by double figures in the first half, including a run of eight straight shots and 10 straight scoring possessions. The hot shooting didn’t stop, but Louisville did enough to earn a third league win so far this year.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons showed plenty of struggle to claw back into it after the break. In the end, they could not come up with a desperately needed basket or two during the long drought during a close game until Louisville finally began to stretch the lead out again.
“All in all, our kids competed hard against a nationally ranked team,” Forbes said. “But in the end, we still have a loss. And then we got to learn from it.”
Williamson, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, had a great performance after a one-point effort in last week’s win over Virginia Tech No. 20. Williamson credited a conversation with Mack to help his thinking.
“Just playing with something more pop, running the floor was one of the most important things we talked about,” Williamson said, adding, “He just told me he wanted me to get out and run. “
Louisville’s Charles Minlend appeared for the first time this year and played a fruitless minute. He was recovering from a sprained knee that suffered a bit in practice on Nov. 5 … Johnson had five points but a career-high nine assists for Louisville. … Wake Forest did not have midfield guard Carter Whitt who had a boot on his right leg after rolling his ankle during the day’s shooting. … The Demon Deacons made 16 of 18 free throws and scored 20 points from revenue.
Louisville: The Cardinals play another straight road game when they visit Miami on Saturday.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have another matchup with a ranked team hosting No. 20 Virginia Tech on Sunday.