Cards' road warriors aiming for record streak in ACC

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) - Having set a high-performance standard with its dominant 80-62 victory over Clemson Saturday, Louisville's basketball team will now try to live up to that level of quality.


And the No. 6 Cardinals (17-3, 8-1) will need to do it on the road, beginning with a game against Boston College (10-10, 4-5) Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, ACCN) in Chestnut Hill, Mass.


But winning on the road in the ACC hasn't been a problem for the Cards so far. They are undefeated away from home in league play, one of just three teams that can make that claim. UofL, Florida State and Syracuse are all 4-0 on enemy courts.


While that trio has had the most success, however, they haven't been as much of an anomaly as they would have been in years past. Winning on the road in college basketball has traditionally been tougher than grisly steak, but you wouldn't know it from what's transpired in the ACC this season.


Conference teams have won almost as many road games as they've lost, which isn't supposed to happen. League clubs are 33-34 on the road and six of them have a better record than they do at home, with Syracuse having the most disparate difference -- 4-0 on an unfamiliar court vs. 2-3 in the Carrier Dome.


Louisville has already lost a home game, 78-65, to Florida State, but can improve to 6-0 on the road with wins at BC and then NC State on Saturday. The Eagles are 3-1 in ACC play at home, with wins against Wake Forest, Virginia and Virginia Tech and a loss to Georgia Tech. The Wolfpack is 3-2.


The Cards' success on the road can probably be attributed to not only superior talent in most cases, but also their experience. Playing in hostile environments shouldn't be as daunting to upperclassmen as it can be to younger outfits.


In any case, UofL has a tough act to follow after playing its most complete game in burying Clemson and earning praise from coach Chris Mack for high energy throughout. Now the goal is to maintain that vitality and focus this week.


"I’m looking for the right type of preparation," Mack said. "I’m looking for the same amount of energy in our practice, the same focus that it takes to win. The quest is to be better than Boston College tomorrow at 9 o’clock.”


Mack will also be looking for his two up-and-coming freshmen, guard David Johnson and forward Samuel Williamson, to continue their recent progress. Johnson had eight points, six assists and five rebounds against Clemson and is averaging 12.0 points, 4.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds over his last four games. Williamson hasn't yet had as much impact as Johnson, but he scored 14 points against the Tigers and is shooting 52.6 percent on the season.


UofL goes into the BC game with a six-game winning streak, and a victory would produce a school record for consecutive ACC victories. The Cards are in first place in the league, holding a slim lead over Florida State (7-1), which plays at Virginia Tuesday night.


UofL's 8-1 record is its best in six years in the ACC and its best in any league since starting the 2008-09 Big East season with a 9-1 mark.


During the Cards' winning streak, Duke is the only opponent to have scored more than 70 points and their field goal percentage defense of .370 ranks sixth nationally. In their last seven games, they've complemented their defense by making 43.3 percent of their 3-pointers (58-of-134).


The BC game continues a favorable stretch in the schedule for Louisville. The combined ACC records of its next six conference opponents — BC, NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia, Georgia Tech and Clemson — is 24-32 and none of the six is projected to make the NCAA Tournament at this point.


BC snapped a four-game losing streak by beating Virginia Tech 61-56 Saturday behind a career-high 23 points by sophomore forward Jairus Hamilton, who hit five treys.


Last year, UofL was upset at BC, 66-59, ending a six-game winning streak against the Eagles, who went on to finish 14-17. It also turned out to be BC’s only victory in its last seven games.


UofL senior guard Ryan McMahon said before the team left for Chestnut Hill Tuesday afternoon that his memor of that game was that the Cards were listless, befitting the atmosphere.


“I remember there was not a lot of energy in the building. It was cold there," McMahon said. "They came out and beat us. They were the better team that night. We didn’t really show up. So we definitely need to prevent that from happening again.”


How?


"Just by being dialed into the little details," McMahon said. "By not expecting to get energy from anywhere else, other than ourselves. From our bench, from our coaching staff, from our players on the court — we’ve got to create our own energy. You go there with a different intensity. You go there with a mindset that no game is given. We’ll walk in there and hopefully come with the mindset that we’re focused and ready to go and come ready to play.”


BREY FINED FOR CRITICIZING REFS


The ACC issued a public reprimand to Notre Dame coach Mike Brey and fined him $20,000 for violating the ACC Sportsmanship Policy following his team's 85-84 loss at Florida State Saturday. He was critical of several calls by the officials late in the game, including a bench technical.


"We're treated by the officials like we haven't brought football in as a full member, but yet we get a full share of the ACC Network TV (money)," Brey said in his post-game press conference. "Are you kidding me? He T's up our bench from across the court because he's (peeved) at us? I'm frustrated, man."


Brey specifically mentioned referee John Gaffney, saying, "You got to be kidding me, man. We're in the league, too. C'mon."


Brey said Monday after being informed of the fine that he accepts responsibility for his comments.


"I'll take my medicine like a man. . .I'll try to be a good guy the rest of the season," he said. "I've been pretty good at controlling my emotions through my 20 years (at ND), of not letting them get the best of me. They did the other night and I paid for it."


If Brey is frustrated by the officiating, he is probably just as frustrated with his team. The Irish are 2-6 in the ACC and their last five losses have all been by five points or less, including a 67-64 homecourt defeat by Louisville.

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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