No. 11 Louisville gets past Hokies, takes half-game ACC lead
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — With one game left in the grueling Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, Louisville controls its own fate.
Jordan Nwora had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and the 11th-ranked Cardinals moved into first place in the ACC with a 68-52 victory over Virginia Tech on Sunday.
Louisville (24-6, 15-4 ACC) rebounded from last week’s loss at No. 6 Florida State and took a half-game lead over the Seminoles, who swept the season series and hold the tiebreaker for tournament seeding. Florida State has two games remaining, while Louisville closes out the regular season at third-place Virginia on Saturday.
“We win on Saturday, which is a huge task, we’re co-champions at least,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said.
Nwora, a junior who was honored before the game along with Louisville’s seniors because he’s expected to enter the NBA draft, bounced back from an 11-point effort against FSU. He made 8 of 16 field goals with a couple of 3-pointers.
“I didn’t want to go out and have my last game here be on a bad note,” Nwora said. “I just tried do my best, do the little things to help my team win.”
Nwora followed one 3 with a three-point play during the 15-2 second-half run that put Louisville ahead to stay.
“We moved a lot a lot better today,” Nwora said. “That opened up some things. There are times that our offense gets a little stagnant, so I feel like when we have a lot of movement on offense, we have the talent to get it done.”
Steven Enoch had eight points and 11 rebounds for the Cardinals, who owned Tech 40-26 on the boards. Louisville shot 50% in the second half and 46% overall while holding the Hokies to 38% from the field.
The teams began a combined 1 of 13 from the field in a first half that ended tied at 27. The Hokies controlled the pace early in the second half before Louisville took control by forcing mistakes.
“Not a bad start to the second half,” said Virginia Tech Mike Young, whose team committed 16 turnovers, leading to 19 Louisville points. “But quick possessions, two bad shots, a really bad turnover in transition and now you’re down 10 and you’ve got a problem.”
With 6-foot-11 center Malik Williams on the bench with a boot on his sprained left ankle, Louisville needed seniors Dwayne Sutton and Enoch along with Nwora to fill the void in the middle. Sutton finished with nine rebounds and eight points and added a three-point play to ignite the comeback.
Mack said Williams’ ankle remains swollen and it’s not clear whether he’ll play at Virginia.
Virginia Tech: After an energetic first half, the Hokies slowed after taking their last lead at 34-32 in the second. They missed seven of their next 10 shots and struggled to contain Nwora.
Louisville: The Cardinals’ home finale wasn’t pretty, though the finish was better than the start. Nwora created chances and had help from Ryan McMahon (10 points), who dropped a couple of 3s. Louisville finished 17-1 at home.
Virginia Tech hosts Clemson on Wednesday, seeking to sweep the Tigers. The Hokies won 67-60 earlier this season.
Louisville seeks a sweep Saturday when it visits Virginia, which has won six straight since it fell to the Cardinals.