Jones, No. 16 Louisville beat Wake Forest 77-65

Carlik Jones scored a season-high 23 points to help No. 16 Louisville beat Wake Forest 77-65 on Wednesday night

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- No. 16 Louisville twice flirted with handing Wake Forest a lopsided loss only to squander leads. The good news for coach Chris Mack was the way the Cardinals responded each time.

Carlik Jones scored a season-high 23 points to help the Cardinals beat the Demon Deacons 77-65 on Wednesday night, extending their best start in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

Samuell Williamson added 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Cardinals (9-1, 4-0 ACC), who first let a 14-point lead slide all the way to four in the first half. Then, after pushing ahead by 16 after halftime, Louisville watched Wake Forest climb to within a point.

“I think it's very evident at times that we have a very young team that will give up a couple of easy ones and allow somebody to get back in the game," Mack said.

The Cardinals had issues with foul trouble — most notably with David Johnson picking up his fourth foul with more than 12 minutes left — as well as multiple players dealing with cramping . Yet Louisville never surrendered the lead before finally putting this one away in the final 6 minutes.

Jones said the message among the players in the huddle was “to just stick together and fight it out and dig it out, and I believe that's what we did tonight.”

Louisville shot 51% to reach 4-0 in the league, marking the program's best since joining the ACC before the 2014-15 season. It marked the best start in any league since for the Cardinals since winning their first eight Big East games during the 2008-09 season.

Daivien Williamson scored 19 points for the Demon Deacons (3-4, 0-4), who fell behind 50-34 lead just 90 seconds after halftime after giving up consecutive baskets off turnovers. They clawed back to within a point midway through the second half, only to go 9 1/2 minutes without a basket to squander a shot at an upset.

Wake Forest shot just 9 of 29 (31%) after halftime, including 2 of 14 from behind the 3-point arc.

“I’m going to have to go back and look, but I’m pretty sure we got a lot of wide-open looks,” first-year Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes said. “And we’ve got to make those.”

BIG PICTURE

Louisville: The Cardinals ran off a 16-0 run to lead by double figures in the first half, including a run of eight straight made shots and 10 straight scoring possessions. That hot shooting didn't hold up, but Louisville did enough to earn a third league road win so far this year.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons showed plenty of fight to claw back in it after halftime. Ultimately, they couldn't come up with a desperately needed basket or two during that long drought during a close game before Louisville finally started to stretch the lead back out again.

“All in all, our kids competed hard against a nationally ranked team,” Forbes said. “But at the end, we still have a loss. And so we got to learn from it.”

WILLIAMSON'S PLAY

Williamson, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, had a big performance after a one-point effort in last week's win against No. 20 Virginia Tech. Williamson credited a conversation with Mack to help his mindset.

“Just kind of playing with some more pop, running the floor was one of the main things we talked about,” Williamson said, adding: “He just told me he wants me to get out and run.”

TIP-INS

Louisville's Charles Minlend made his first appearance this year, playing one scoreless minute. He had been recovering from a sprained knee ligament suffered in practice Nov. 5. ... Johnson had five points but a career-high nine assists for Louisville. ... Wake Forest didn't have midyear-enrollee guard Carter Whitt, who was wearing a boot on his right leg after rolling his ankle during the day’s shootaround. ... The Demon Deacons made 16 of 18 free throws and scored 20 points off turnovers.

UP NEXT

Louisville: The Cardinals play a second straight road game when they visit Miami on Saturday.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have another matchup with a ranked team, hosting No. 20 Virginia Tech on Sunday.

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