ATLANTA -- It's a good thing Georgia Tech is playing its best basketball of the season. It is probably going to need to continue with that level of play.
The Yellow Jackets put their four-game winning streak on the line Tuesday when they travel to the Yum Center to play No. 11 Louisville. Waiting for them will be a Cardinals' team that is down to its final two games -- and its final home game -- before the season abruptly ends with the school's decision to opt out of the postseason.
"They've got some guys playing at a high level, and so do we," Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory said. "They're a better team (than the first time the two teams play), and we're a better team. It should be a great game."
The two ACC games between the two teams since Louisville joined the conference have been tight.
Last season, Louisville won 52-51 in a game that went down to the wire. The first meeting this season was tied at 69 when Anas Mahmoud got a pass under the basket and appeared to have his shot blocked from behind by Marcus Georges-Hunt. But the officials called a foul, and Georges-Hunt fouled out with 23 points. Louisville won the game 75-71.
"Both times, it's come down to a one-possession game, and they have playmakers," Gregory said. "You have to compete every single play. Give (Louisville head coach Rick) Pitino credit, they've got some guys playing at a high level."
Louisville (22-7, 11-5 ACC) had its three-game winning streak broken by Miami on Saturday. The Cardinals are 17-1 at home, losing only to Virginia. Georgia Tech (17-12, 7-9) has surpassed its highest total for overall wins and wins in the ACC under Gregory. The Yellow Jackets have not finished at .500 in the conference since 2006-07.
"I think we've played well all year long," Gregory said. "We've put together a string where at critical times we didn't make one play, we'd make a second play after that. Sometimes it's a stop and a score, sometimes it's a score and a stop.
"But in this league, it's such a fine line that a couple of plays can make the difference in a game. The past couple of weeks we've made those plays."
Louisville does the same thing because the Cardinals have one of the best defensive teams in the ACC. Louisville ranks No. 2 in scoring defense (61.2 points), and that has helped the Cardinals rank first in scoring margin (plus-15.4 points).
Georgia Tech continues to benefit from the surge of Georges-Hunt, who has embraced the transition to point guard. The senior didn't miss a shot Saturday against Boston College and is averaging 22.3 points during the past six games. He ranks No. 6 in the conference with 17.1 points, nearly two more per game than he was averaging when conference play began.
Another key has been the play of forward Quinton Stephens, who has started the past four games -- all Georgia Tech wins. The team is 6-0 when Stephens scores in double figures.
"Marcus has solidified himself as one of the premier players in this league," Gregory said. "Obviously you get more notice when you win. He's going to have to continue to play at a high level, and I think he's playing as well as any player in the league."