One might think Louisville’s game at Georgia Tech is little more than a warm-up. No. Check the road records of visiting teams in the ACC and you’ll find there are a lot more losers than winners.
Louisville (15-3, 4-1) ranked 17th (AP) poll travels to McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta, Georgia for a 4 p.m. game against the Yellow Jackets (11-7, 1-4) and is a six point favorite. The Cardinals had to fight tooth and nail last season to squeeze out a 52-51 win on February 23 last season.
Tech has lost four of its last five games including a 77-78 loss at Virginia Tech, January 16. However Tech’s lone ACC victory is over nationally ranked Virginia, 68-64, January 9.
In the early going of ACC play road teams in conference are 16-29. North Carolina is 2-0 while Notre Dame is 2-1. Syracuse and Miami, Fla., are 2-2.
We’ve been down this road before. Road games are especially important in this conference.
This is the first of two straight on the road for the Cards who play at Virginia Tech, Wednesday.
“We have two very difficult road games and we have to be ready for them,” said Louisville coach Rick Pitino following Wednesday’s 84-65 win over Florida State. “Georgia Tech has two guys built like Chinanu Onuaku, very strong low post game, very physical in everything they do.”
Tech is led by Atlanta native, senior forward Charles Smith who averages 12.2 points and 11 rebounds. Guards Adam Smith, a graduate student, averages 15.4 points and 3.3 rebounds. Junior Marcus Georges-Hunt averages 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds. As a team Tech averages 76.7 points per game.
Georgia Tech ranks 14th nationally in fewest turnovers per game (10.2) and 21st in rebounding margin (+8.2). Turnovers will be a key against a team like Louisville that pressures fullcourt.
“We’re a team that gets the ball inside,” said Tech coach Brian Gregory following the loss to Virginia Tech. “We need to finish plays around the basket and we weren’t able to do that today.”
Louisville is coming off two impressive defensive performances in wins over Pitt 59-41 and Florida State 84-65. The Cards continue to lead the nation in field goal percentage defense (.361), second in rebound margin and third in scoring defense (58.2).
“I thought they (Louisville) created a lot of indecision on our kids’ part,” said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, Wednesday night. “Louisville is so adapt and skilled at getting in position, big and strong and athletic that we had a very hard time keeping them off the boards.”
The Cards like to drive the ball inside (see 57 paint touches versus FSU). That could be a problem for Tech. “We have to do a better job of guarding the ball without fouling, or putting us in position where a foul could be called,” said Gregory.
-Louisville and Georgia Tech were founding members of the Metro Conferfence in 1975, but the Yellow Jackets left for the ACC in 1978.
-In last years game, Louisville trailed by 13 points and didn’t take its first lead until 59 seconds remained.
-Georgia Tech’s first five ACC opponents have a combined record of 71-21, the strongest schedule to date of any conference team. The Cards will be the fourth ACC top-25 team Tech has played and fifth overall. Tech is 1-3 vs. ranked foes.
-The Yellow Jackets are 9-2 at home this season.
-Tech is averaging 76.7 points per game and 74.2 in ACC games, both up 14 points a game over last season.
-Tech has four players average in double figures and starts two graduate students in Smith and guard James White.
-In ACC games only the Cards Onuaku is leading the league in rebounding (12.6), blockled shots (2.6) and field goal percentage (.638). He has averaged 11.1 rebounds over the last nine games. He has five straight double-doubles.
-The Cards lead the nation in field goal defense (.361). Louisville is 15th in the nation in offensive field goal percentage (.492). Louisville has shot 50 percent or better in 10 games this season.
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