After blowing a 23-point lead to Duke in its last bout with the Blue Devils, Louisville got sweet revenge with a 79-73 victory on Duke's home court Saturday night. The Cardinals led by 10 at halftime and withstood a frenetic Duke run in the second half to secure their biggest road win on the season and a crown jewel on their ever-improving NCAA Tournament resume.
Louisville needed this one to really solidify its status as an ACC contender, and solidify it did in emphatic fashion, moving to 6-1 in league play that puts it tied atop the league standings with Florida State.
It's just Duke's third loss on the season after starting 15-1, but second consecutive stumble after falling to Clemson on the road earlier in the week. Louisville on the other hand has reeled off four-straight victories after a stretch in December and January in which it lost three of five.
The victory was Louisville's first over a team in the top three of the AP Top 25 since 2010.
Louisville (15-3, 6-1 ACC) returns home for a two-game home stand against Georgia Tech and Clemson over the next week. Duke (15-3, 5-2 ACC) faces Miami and Pittsburgh at home over the next 10 days.
1. Louisville gets a big lift from David Johnson: Have a day, David Johnson. Have. A. Day.
Louisville's freshman guard put up a career-high 19 points in the win, a coming out party if there ever was one. He went 8-of-12 shooting off the bench, 1-of-1 from 3-point range and chipped in a team-high seven assists for good measure. That's the good.
The bad: Johnson entered the season with a shoulder injury and appeared to suffer an injury in the last few minutes of the game, when the outcome was nearly decided. Here's to hoping it's minor -- Johnson's a rising star and Louisville's a different team -- one that can win on the road over a top-five team with him hitting on all cylinders.
2. A star emerges for Duke: Duke may have the best player in the country in Vernon Carey Jr., and now it's clear it has an unheralded but surefire star on its hands, too, with Cassius Stanley. Like David Johnson, Stanley had himself his own coming out party, scoring a career-high 24 points and grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds. Stanley's athleticism and tough-minded style make him an intriguing NBA prospect, and his production is finally meeting his talent with Duke, where he's averaging 18 points and 5.7 boards over his last three in an expanded role. Time to expand that role even more given what he's done of late.
3. Louisville's still scratching the surface: Any game in which Jordan Nwora goes 3-of-12 from the field is a game in which Louisville should be expected to lose. And yet ... Louisville led the entire second half. On the road. Against a top-three opponent.
Louisville still has some kinks to work out on offense, and it's clear David Johnson may be the piece that links this team to its ceiling, but I'm buying all the Louisville stock I can get my hands on right now. This team just went to Cameron Indoor and nearly went wire-to-wire with its best player struggling all night. That's a team with Final Four potential.