Louisville men’s basketball broke through for its first ACC win of the season and the first of head coach Kenny Payne’s career Wednesday, taking down Georgia Tech 68-58 at the KFC Yum! Center.
The Cardinals (3-19, 1-10 ACC) snapped a 10-game slide with the victory, which was powered by a balanced scoring effort and a strong defensive showing.
Four UofL players reached double digits in points, while Georgia Tech (8-14, 1-11) labored to just 29.5% shooting overall.
“I thought we played hard,” Louisville head coach Kenny Payne said. “I thought we played desperately defensively in the second half. We did make mistakes, but overall, they deserved it. Before this game I said I wanted Georgia Tech to play great. I want them to play physical. I want them to run their stuff great. I want you to find a way to win. I don’t want to beat Georgia Tech because they played bad. I want them to beat Georgia Tech because they played good. That was my mindset coming in. They are a good team. They are sort of like us in that they haven’t been able to get wins. But when you look at them and how they are orchestrated, they talk, they rebound the ball, they were missing a starting point guard but still they were playing us hard. They played us hard.”
Redshirt junior forward Jae’Lyn Withers had a career night with 19 points and 13 rebounds, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range and 7 of 9 from the free-throw line.
Senior guard El Ellis had 11 points, a career-high six rebounds and four assists, and freshman forward Kamari Lands chipped in 11 points, five boards, two assists and two steals. Junior forward JJ Traynor also had 10 points.
Withers had 14 points and seven rebounds in the first half, making his first three 3-pointers.
“My teammates found me in the right positions, and I knocked down shots,” Withers said. “As far as rebounding, I attacked the glass with a lot more intensity than I usually do.”
Louisville went on an early 7-0 run that eventually became a 14-4 spurt after a putback dunk by Tryanor to make it 18-12 at the 7:09 mark.
Withers’ third 3 gave UofL a 27-20 lead with 3:47 left in the half. Georgia Tech had an 8-2 run to cut the lead to one, but redshirt freshman guard/forward Mike James ended it with a jumper, and Lands tacked on two free throws to give UofL a 33-28 advantage at the break.
The Yellow Jackets cut into Louisville’s lead several times and even tied the game at 45-all with 9:29 remaining, but Traynor answered with a mid-range jumper and the lead stretched back out to seven.
Georgia Tech pulled within four with 1:12 to go before Lands stepped up and knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key as the shot clock expired to ice the win.
“I feel like we take every win as important,” Lands said. “Like I said, it’s been a tough season for us. We’ve been practicing really hard, you know, we’ve been just wanting it.”
The Cardinals pulled down a season-high 46 rebounds and made 19 of 26 free throws.
Kyle Sturdivant paced Georgia Tech with 17 points.
Louisville stays home to host Florida State at 2 p.m. ET Saturday. The game will air on ESPN2.
“Losing those games put us in a tough spot mentally, and when that buzzer sounds and you see the smiles on all of our faces, and just getting that energy from the crowd, and getting that winning feeling again, it meant a lot,” Traynor said. “I think going forward, getting to experience that feeling again will push us to play hard.”
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