The top spot in the ACC was in the line as the Cards returned home to face just their second ranked opponent of the season in #19 Virginia Tech.
The contest went down to the final seconds, but the Cards came out on top 73-71.
The Cards only other game against a ranked team was a blowout loss to Wisconsin on December 19. Louisville had won three straight games since then, but not against the stiffest competition and not without palpable flaws in their game.
The Hokies had looked impressive in the early season, including a win against then-#3 Villanova with their only blemish a befuddling blowout loss to Penn State on December 8.
With NC State’s loss to Clemson on Tuesday, the Hokies and the Cards were tied for first in the ACC coming into this game.
The game did not start well for the Cards, as Virginia Tech scored the first 11 points. Louisville was quick to respond with a 9-0 run of their own. The Hokies kept the Cards at bay for a few more minutes before a Quinn Slazinski three-pointer with just under 10 minutes left in the first half gave Louisville a 19-17 lead.
The Cards widened their lead as the first half went on, going up by as much as eight points with a minute to go.
A Hokie three-pointer with 27 seconds left sent the teams into halftime with Louisville up 36-31.
Jae’Lyn Withers had nine points in the first half.
The Cards opened the second half with an 11-2 run to increase the lead to 14 points four minutes in. Tech started scoring again, but the deficit stayed in the high single-digits for most of the rest of the game.
Louisville was up six with just over a minute left when the Hokies made a three-point play to make the score 72-69 Cards with 45 seconds left.
A Virginia Tech player was fouled with 6.6 seconds left and made the two ensuing free-throws to make it a one-point game.
David Johnson was fouled on the next possession and made the first of his two shots from the charity stripe but missed the second, giving the Hokies the ball with a chance to tie or even win with seconds left.
Virginia Tech missed their last second three-pointer and the Cards won again.
Carlik Jones and David Johnson each had 17 points to lead Louisville in scoring.
Jae’Lyn Withers had a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Quinn Slazinski was the only other Cardinal who scored in double-figures with 10 points.
Louisville moves to 8-1 for the season (3-0 ACC) and first place in the conference. Virginia Tech falls to 8-2 (2-1 ACC).
Louisville was set to continue their conference slate against Georgia Tech on January 9, but that game has been postponed due to COVID. It is unclear whether the Cards will play before the next scheduled game against Wake Forest on January 13.<