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ACC Roundup - Louisville Bombs Again, Wake Nips Hokies

And Tony Bennett is about to set an important record

Louisville v Kentucky
 LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY - DECEMBER 31: Sahvir Wheeler #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats defends the shot of El Ellis #3 of the Louisville Cardinals at Rupp Arena on December 31, 2022 in Lexington, Kentucky.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In Saturday’s ACC Action, Virginia whipped Georgia Tech 74-56, Wake Forest nipped Virginia Tech 77-75, Syracuse ran by BC 79-65 and Louisville lost at Kentucky 86-63.

That last one probably went about the way it was meant to, but we thought that given the intensity of the rivalry, Louisville’s need for a major win and the pressure that is now on John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats, the chances for a shocker were there.

Didn't happen.

It would have needed more on both counts - better play by Louisville to put game pressure on the Wildcats and for Kentucky to, well, choke.

But instead we got the Louisville we’ve seen all season. Louisville led once - at 3-0 - and never again.

Kentucky just kept pulling away.

Oscar Tshiebwe had 24 points on 10-13 from the floor and added 14 rebounds and Louisville had no one to match him even in less than perfect health. And Jacob Toppin had a big game too, hitting 10-15 for 24 points. He also added seven rebounds.

UK shot 60 percent even though they were just 4-13 on threes. Louisville shot 46.8 percent and was even worse on threes - just 2-13 for 15.4 percent. Only El Ellis, with 23, and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, with 10, hit double figures.

After the game, John Calipari defended his protege, first-year Cards coach Kenny Payne, saying that “it takes time” to build a program.

True. But not as much as it used to, and Payne is losing goodwill. It’s hard to imagine him losing his job after one season, but Louisville is 2-11. He’s going to need to show big improvement soon if he wants to keep his job.

Virginia Tech played at Wake Forest without Hunter Cattoor, who is still out with an arm injury suffered during the BC game. Wake rode a big game by Tyree Appleby, who hit for 24. He hit 5-10, 4-6 on threes and 10-13 from the line.

Wake Forest was up by 11 before the Hokies rallied, cutting the lead to 61-60 with 7:36 left. But the Deacs were just good enough to keep the lead, pushing back out to an eight point lead. Virginia Tech rallied again, but came up short.

In an interesting sidebar, Sean Padulla got into it a bit with Wake coach Steve Forbes and was T’d up.

Afterwards, Forbes said this: “It’s nothing, just competitiveness. Sean made a tough shot and I didn’t say anything to him. My crack staff there thought he travelled. So they were barking about travelling and (Padulla) turned and I don’t know what he said but he said something I said something back to him. That was the end of it and I have the upmost respect for him. He’s a great player and competitive like I am. So you get slapped on the wrist, and you go stand in the corner for a little bit.”

Andrew Carr, who has been on a good run the last couple of games, had 14 points and seven boards.

We just didn't see any logical argument for Georgia Tech to take down Virginia, primarily because it’s a case of bad offense meets great defense.

And while Tech kept up for most of the first half, in the closing minutes, Virginia built an 11 point lead. And with Virginia, 11 might as well be 22. Maybe if somebody had had a freak outburst, Georgia Tech might have kept up. But probably not.

Kihei Clark had 15 to pace the Cavs while Jaylen Gardner had 14. Miles Kelly paced Tech with 20 off the bench.

Tech actually shot fairly well, hitting 44.4 percent to Virginia’s 47.4 percent but Virginia forced a disastrous 23 turnovers including five by Kyle Sturdivant and four each by Rodney Howard and Deebo Coleman. You’re never going to beat Virginia with 23 turnovers.

Good news for BC: big man Quentin Post. Bad news for BC?

Didn’t make much difference against Syracuse.

The Orange started slow but built a 36-27 halftime lead. BC fought back and took a brief 50-49 lead. After that, it was mostly SU, though BC did cut it to eight with three minutes left.

The Eagles fought, but it just wasn’t enough.

Joe Girard had 24 while freshman Judah Mintz added 18 points and seven assists. Benny Williams may have made his ultimate case to Jim Boeheim with 16 points, 11 rebounds, three block and a pair of steals.

Jesse Edwards foul troubles are not entirely behind him: he had four in 25 minutes.

However, his backup, Mounir Hima, had four blocks in 15 minutes which is really impressive.

It’s still early, but there are some definite trends: Miami seems legit. Clemson is exceeding expectations, as is Pitt. Wake has potential. Virginia and Duke are likely to climb. Syracuse is enigmatic, again. Florida State has some potential but the ceiling may not be that high, though things may change starting next game as Baba Miller will be eligible again. BC needs talent to match the effort it puts out. Virginia Tech needs a healthy Cattoor. UNC, so far, is the biggest disappointment, but that could turn on a dime. NC State, again, has a critical injury inside. And we don’t expect much from Georgia Tech and Louisville.

It’s too early for Kenny Payne to truly be on the hot seat, but Josh Pastner? He’s been at Tech for going on seven years and his overall record is 101-102. His ACC record is 47-66.

This year he’s 7-6 going into conference play which is not going to be much better. What’s the argument for keeping him?

There probably is one but we haven’t heard it.

No games until Tuesday, when Notre Dame visits Boston College, Syracuse heads to Louisville for what should be an easy win and, in the most interesting game, Virginia visits Pitt. The Panthers have won nine of their last 10 and Reece Beekman’s status is still unclear.

And Tony Bennett is one game away from becoming the all-time winningest coach in Virginia history. So that one could be really fun.

ACC Standings