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Louisville-Wake Forest preview: Cards look to stay red hot

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U of L shoots for its ninth straight win and its 20th overall back inside the Yum Center Wednesday night.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at N.C. State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville Cardinals (19-3, 10-1) vs. Wake Forest (10-11, 3-8)

Game Time: 9:05 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ESPN2

Announcers: Jason Benetti (play-by-play) and Dan Dakich (analyst)

Favorite: Louisville by 16

Officials: Brian Dorsey, A.J. Desai, Kipp Kissinger

Series: Louisville leads, 6-2

Last Meeting: Louisville won 82-54 on Jan. 30, 2019 in Winston-Salem

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:

Statistics:

Relevant Videos:

About Wake Forest:

Once again sitting at the bottom of the ACC standings, Wake Forest (10-11, 3-8) enters Wednesday night’s game against Louisville coming off one of its most impressive performances of the season, a 56-44 triumph over Clemson. Serving as the perfect representative of ACC basketball in 2019-20, the Demon Deacons have won just three league games this season, but those three wins have come by a combined 34 points. Outside of a 90-59 loss to Duke, each of Wake’s league losses have been by 10 points or fewer.

It might be a stretch to say that Wake Forest “lives and dies at the free-throw line,” but not by much. The Demon Deacons get a higher percentage of their points from free-throws than all but five of the 353 teams in Division-I. They easily lead the ACC in free-throw attempts (23.4 per game) and are third in free-throw percentage (74.6 percent).

For the second straight year, the guy who makes Danny Manning’s team go is Brandon Childress, the son of Wake great Randolph Childress. The senior guard is averaging a career-high 15.4 points per game and shooting a career-best 41.3 percent. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Childress is shooting a career-low from beyond the arc (32.0 percent) and averaging a career-high 3.0 turnovers per game.

Childress had been battling a shoulder injury in recent weeks but seems to be 100 percent now. He’s scored in double figures in five straight games, but has committed two or more turnovers in 14 consecutive games.

One of the most improved players in the ACC this season has been Wake junior center Olivier Sarr, a native of France. Sarr is nearly averaging a double-double at 12.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, a significant leap from the 6.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg figures of his sophomore season. The 7-footer had scored 10 points or more in seven straight games before going just 2-for-10 from the field and netting only seven points in the win over Clemson. Sarr has attempted 122 free-throws this season, the second most of any player in the ACC. He’ll be a challenge for both Steven Enoch and Malik Williams.

Despite dealing with a rash of injuries that have forced him to miss eight games, junior guard Chaundee Brown (12.8 ppg) is the third and final Wake player averaging double figures in scoring. He returned to the court for the first time in nearly a month on Saturday, logging 12 minutes and scoring six points. It’s unclear if he’ll be put back into the rotation at a higher clip on Wednesday.

Senior guard Andrien White, a transfer from Charlotte, has been Wake’s most consistent outside threat. He shoots 39.6 percent from beyond the arc and has made at least one three-pointer in every game but four this season. Sophomore forward Isaiah Mucius comes off the bench, but gets significantly more run than starter Ody Oguama. Mucius is a solid enough rebounder who can shoot it just well enough to be respected, but he shouldn’t be a major challenge for Dwayne Sutton or Jordan Nwora.

Wake plays at a faster pace than any ACC team outside of Duke and North Carolina, and they love a nice sloppy game with lots of turnovers and lots of free-throws. The challenge for Louisville, a team whose one weakness in recent weeks has been its propensity for turning the ball over, is to not play into that. Value every possession, avoid unnecessary fouls, and keep shooting the hell out of the ball.

Notable:

—Louisville’s current 8-game conference winning streak is its longest since joining the ACC in 2014-15. It’s the longest league winning streak for the Cards since the 2008-09 season.

—Louisville’s 10-1 ACC record represents its best start to a conference season since winning 11 of its first 12 Metro Conference games in 1992-93.

—Louisville is 19-3 through 22 games for just the second time in the last 15 seasons.

—Wake Forest is 1-3 against ranked opponents, with that lone victory coming against then-No. 23 Xavier on Dec. 14.

—Louisville is 2-0 all-time against Wake Forest in games played in Louisville.

—Wake Forest’s last road victory over a top five opponent was a 119-114 triple overtime victory at No. 4 North Carolina in 2004.

—Louisville has made as many as nine three-pointers in a game on 13 occasions this season, including eight of its last 14 games and each of its last two.

—In its last nine games, Louisville has made 44.8 percent of its three-pointers (81-of-181).

—Wake Forest defeated Louisville by a single point in the Sweet 16 round of the 1996 NCAA tournament, but most basketball historians actually consider the Cardinals the victors of that game since Tim Duncan both fouled out and walked in the game’s most crucial moments, and neither violation was called.

—A win Wednesday night would give Wake Forest multiple wins over ranked opponents in the same season for the first time since 2013-14.

—Louisville enters Wednesday night ranked fifth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.370), 14th in scoring margin (+13.0), 27th in rebound margin (+6.6) and 28th in scoring defense (62.4).

—Louisville head coach Chris Mack was an assistant coach for three seasons at Wake Forest (2001-04) under the late head coach Skip Prosser when the Demon Deacons posted a 67-29 record.

—Louisville assistant Dino Gaudio worked nine seasons at Wake Forest (2001-10), including six years as associate head coach and three as its head coach, when the Demon Deacons compiled a 187-99 record and participated in six NCAA Tournaments. In three seasons as the head coach at Wake Forest (2007-10), Gaudio guided Wake to a 61-31 overall record and a pair of NCAA tournament appearances.

—Wake has forced opponents to shoot under 40 percent from the floor in seven games this season while only allowing three opponents to shoot at least 50 percent, its best ratio of the last six seasons.

—Wake Forest leads the ACC in free-throw attempts (23.4 per game) and is third in free-throw percentage (74.6 percent).

—The Deacs’ free throw rate of 41.4% (FTA/ FGA) ranks 18th nationally and is the highest for a Wake Forest team since 2014-15 (50.1). A total of 24.4 percent of Wake Forest’s points this season have come from the line, the sixth highest percentage nationally.

—Louisville is 15-0 this season when holding opponents to 68 points or fewer, and 4-3 on the year when teams score more than 68.

—Wake Forest center Olivier Sarr ranks second in the ACC with 122 free-throw attempts, already more than the 106 he had in his first two seasons combined.

—Louisville is 17-0 when leading at halftime this season, and 2-3 when trailing at the break.

—Louisville has won 161 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

—Louisville has won 153 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.

—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 18 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga). A win Wednesday night would push that streak to 19 straight years for the Cards.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 79, Wake Forest 63