There is more Louisville basketball to be played in 2021-22.
The Cardinals led Georgia Tech by 27 midway through the second half, nearly saw that lead entirely evaporate, and then held on for an 84-74 win in the first round of the ACC tournament Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
U of L, the tournament’s No. 11 seed, will now face sixth-seeded Virginia in the second round Wednesday night at approximately 9:30 p.m.
The star of the show for Louisville was Jarrod West, who buried back-to-back three-pointers in the game’s most critical juncture to give U of L some breathing room from the surging Yellow Jackets. West finished 4-of-5 from beyond the arc on his way to a game-high 20 points. He also produced a season-high four steals.
In a stark contrast to his style in the regular season, interim head coach Mike Pegues chose to play just seven players on Tuesday night.
Malik Williams responded to the vote of confidence with his 12th career double-double, scoring 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Noah Locke gave his most well-rounded performance in weeks, finishing with 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Sydney Curry added 12 points and six boards, while El Ellis came off the bench to score 10 points, grab five rebounds, and hand out a team-high six assists.
For 30 minutes or so, this was easily the most impressive performance of the season from Louisville. The energy was off the charts, the bench was engaged, and everyone on the floor in white seemed to be playing connected basketball for the first time in about a month.
The team reverting and looking completely panicked for a seven minute stretch as Georgia Tech whittled a 27-point deficit down to five will put something of a damper on the good vibes, and understandably so. The difference between Tuesday night and so many games we’ve seen over the last four months is that guys eventually stepped up and seized the moment.
Ellis made a huge pass to Malik for an easy layup to stop the bleeding, and then West did what captains are supposed to do when games are on the line. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than what we’re used to.
Now let’s get really weird.
One down, four to go.