By Conner Farrell —
Following our NET deep dive last week, men’s basketball found itself No. 27 in the NET rankings.
U of L beat Miami 90-73 in its conference opener and continued ACC play with contests at Pittsburgh and No. 12 North Carolina. The two-game road trip featured a tough, unexpected loss before culminating in a crucial upset of the Tar Heels at Chapel Hill.
On Jan. 9, the Cardinals fell to Pittsburgh 89-86 in overtime. The defeat marked Louisville’s first loss to the Panthers in 12 games and struggling Pitt’s first ACC victory in 23 games.
“They came out and played a lot harder than we did,” head coach Chris Mack said. “Whether we switch, where we hard-hedge, whether we played zone, our defense was deplorable. Until our team plays with a little more dirt under its fingernails, we’re going to get more ass-kicking’s in this league.”
Pittsburgh earned No. 69 in the NET rankings after its win, turning the Cards’ casualty into a Quadrant 1 defeat. Such a loss damages U of L’s resume and could hurt the chances of a favorable NCAA tournament seeding.
Mack’s squad decreased to No. 30 in the NET rankings following the overtime loss. With one of their toughest matchups approaching at No. 12 North Carolina, Louisville needed to avoid another “ass-kicking” to remain a competitor in the conference.
On Jan. 12, U of L did just that and beyond with a fantastic triumph over the highly-ranked Tar Heels. UNC had just beat No. 15 NC State and earned No. 8 in the NET, so the Cardinals’ victory marked the best road win in the NCAA this season.
“I’ve been around the game enough to know you can be humbled on any given night and erase the bitter feeling a few nights later,” Mack said. “We felt pretty low after the Pittsburgh game. To come in here and have the effort that we did, we knew that was what it was going to take.”
And Louisville did more than top the scoreboard. They thumped UNC 83-62, making for U of L’s first-ever win at Chapel Hill and Tar Heel head coach Roy Williams’ worst-ever loss at home.
Juniors Steven Enoch, Dwayne Sutton and sophomore Jordan Nwora led the way with 17 points each. Enoch recorded a double-double with 11 rebounds and Sutton did the same with 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
“I just think he’s tough,” Mack said on Sutton. “It’s not like he’s lighting the world on fire. He was 1-of-6 (from three-point range). But he damn near gets a triple-double. He’s just a tough kid.”
The impressive dub vaulted the Cards to No. 23 in the NET and provided their third Quadrant 1 win of the season (Michigan State, Seton Hall and North Carolina).
Louisville plays one home game and one road game this week against Boston College and Georgia Tech. Both the Eagles and Yellow Jackets are ranked outside the top-100 of the NET at No. 148 and No. 102, respectively.
U of L is now 11-5 on the season and 2-1 in ACC play so, with the quality win over North Carolina, the good certainly outweighed the bad from this past week.
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Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal