Louisville was last ranked as the leader in rebounds and points.
El Ellis, a Louisville 11-11, 5-7 ACC player, was needed to score with Williams' 10 per game average. El Ellis scored a career-high 25 points in the second half as well as overtime. With Williams' 8.7 points per game missing, the Cards needed men to grab rebounds and Matt Cross smashed it for a career-best 15.
Even though they didn't win, the Cards saw encouraging signs from their coach and main man.
"Obviously, we felt like, "Damn," because regardless of who it was, we consider ourselves a close team ...," Cross. Cross said that it was a shame not to have Williams out, but Coach Pegues does an excellent job keeping us moving forward.
It is not clear if Williams will be able to continue with the Cards, or for how long.
Pegues announced the suspension Monday on his radio program, but later said that Williams was being disciplined for failing to follow the standards Louisville has set for its players.
Pegues stated that Williams will have to agree to certain conditions if he wants his return.
Pegues said Monday that he believes it begins with the two of them sitting down and discussing. His family might need to be involved. It's a heart to heart conversation in which there are some rules that everyone understands. If there is any regression, it will become a permanent issue. We don't want it that to happen, but we must continue to work with the right men who are passionate about the right things.
Pegues was happy with what he saw in the first game without Williams.
Pegues used Roosevelt Wheeler as a backup center and Williams was suspended. In concussion protocols, Pegues also used Gabe Wiznitzer as a backup center against North Carolina. This is the ACC's leading rebounding margin leader.
Wiznitzer, 6'11" and 245 lbs, hadn't played since Dec. 14 when he played four minutes in a win against Southeastern Louisiana. That was after a 12-game stretch on the bench. His fourth appearance of the season was against North Carolina.
Pegues stated that he would grab Wiznitzer after the postgame news conference and give him a big hug.
Pegues stated, "It is difficult to sit so long and then go into the game and defend the best big man (in Bacot)," And I'm thrilled that he did the job his teammates and me know he can do. He was so proud. To be able go out and do this takes a lot of character.
Jae'Lyn Anders also pitched in. He got 12 points and "proved worth being able to deal a bit with Bacot in the post."
Bacot still managed to rack up 22 rebounds. Wiznitzer, Withers and others did their part. Cross also contributed, with 11 offensive rebounds and 4 defensive rebounds.
Cross stated, "Usually, I just kinda take my guy out the play, then someone else can go grab the rebound, since I usually guard (power forward), a primary rebounder." "But today, I decided I had to hit and get in there because we are missing our leading rebounder."
They were also missing their leading scorer but Ellis seemed capable of playing a larger role.
Although he has been inconsistent this season the junior-college transfer has scored 43 points in his first two games as interim coach following the separation agreement between Louisville and Chris Mack.
Pegues stated that the 6-3 backup guard has "total carte blanche" to take part in the offense, provided he "be responsible with it."
Ellis stated, "I feel really happy about that." "Coach Pegues has always had great faith in me since I arrived, and that is something I truly appreciate. All of our guys have confidence. Everyone's free to play and go out. He allows us to play as defense players, so long as we make the right plays and are playing our roles on defense. This is what you should expect from a coach.
Pegues wanted to "celebrate the guys," even if they lose. Pegues stated that he would keep Williams' discussion to a minimum after the game and that Williams' absence did not change anything strategically.
He hoped that it would change the way the Cardinals view themselves moving forward, with or without Wiliams.
Pegues stated, "I knew we could come here and win against Carolina without Malik Williams." "I knew that. It didn't happen due to some things, but I hope that they now know this. It's my hope that they realize that we are pretty damn good if the little things go right and we stick together.