With 30 seconds to play, two seconds to shoot, and the score tied at 68, Chris Mack turned to Matt Cross.
The U of L head coach drew up a risky out of bounds play that involved a pass from in front of the Cardinal bench all the way across the court to the left corner. Dre Davis did his part, delivering a perfectly placed overhead pass to Cross, who was able to catch, set his feet, and stun the home crowd inside PNC Arena by ripping the net and putting Louisville ahead by three.
After NC State’s Cam Hayes failed to answer on the other end, Jarrod West hit a pair of free-throws to lock up a 73-68 Cardinal victory over NC State in the first ACC game for both teams.
For the first time this season, Louisville had five different players score in double figures.
Malik Williams led the way with yet another extremely solid performance, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Cross, who was all over the floor making hustle plays all afternoon long, added 13 points and seven rebounds.
This Matt Cross hustle play defines the half pic.twitter.com/sebhlOxUbH— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) December 4, 2021
Noah Locke, whose desperation 26-footer tied the game at 68 with 1:33 to play, scored 12 points. Dre Davis and El Ellis each added 11.
After 20 minutes of play, it didn’t seem like the visitors would need any sort of dramatics to pull off the road win. Louisville led by 14 points at halftime, but NC State seized the second half momentum right out of the gate, scoring 14 of the first 16 points out of the locker room to almost instantly erase the U of L advantage.
The Cardinals have now won 129 consecutive games when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.
This was an absolute weekend saver. I was about to be in a very, very low place, and the entire Rutherford family was going to be forced to deal with my extreme mopiness for the next day and a half. A big thanks to Matt Cross, Noah Locke, Dre Davis and everyone else for helping them avoid a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
The first half was brilliant, the first 14 minutes of the second half were painful, and the final two minutes I’m probably going to watch five times before we get to Monday morning.
Last note: Louisville missed the NCAA tournament last season largely because it went 1-6 in Quad 1 games. The first NET rankings won’t be out for a few weeks, but if you use Ken Pom’s rankings, the Cards are already 3-1 in Quad 1 games so far this season. That’s not insignificant.
1-0 in conference play. See you again in 25 days, ACC.