From the opening tip the Heels played one of their most engaged games of the season. They were dialed in on defense and unselfish on offense. The ball moved around the perimeter much faster and did not stick in the early moments of the game. The Heels hit the offensive and defensive glass hard and all in all the opening minutes represented the best effort the Heels exerted all season. The Heels still allowed a few too many threes but they defended stoutly, switching well and not really giving up uncontested looks.
As the first half progressed, the Heels maintained excellent effort and communication on each end of the floor. The Heels particularly impressed on defense where they limited the Cardinals to one shot per trip. Justin Jackson in particular played a great first half. Jackson made a number of floaters while chipping in a few offensive rebounds and assists. Nate Britt continued to show improved range with a few threes, helping the Heels to a tie game at half.
To start the second half the Heels came out with much less energy for the first few trips up and down the floor. The Heels had several bad turnovers on offense to start the half and communication on offense seemed to be lacking. The turnovers fed a Louisville 15-4 run to give the Cardinals a 9 point lead. The biggest problem the Heels had on defense to start the second half was that they kept allowing offensive rebounds.
On offense the Heels took awhile to get back into the rhythm they had in the first half. The Heels had still not recovered from the effects of the Louisville run when Marcus Paige left the game with an ankle injury. The Heels faltered once their leader went out although he did return a few minutes later to deliver a huge three that energized the team. From there, the Heels fought back to close the Louisville lead to one with 50 seconds to go. Before Brice Johnson picked up the ball from Marcus Paige and laid it in to take a one point lead with 36.5 seconds to go.
On the next possession Rozier nailed a baseline fade-away jumper to put the Cardinals back up one. On the last Carolina possession Marcus Paige got the ball on the left wing, drove to the basket, and made the game winning layup as the Heels held on in the final seconds to beat the #5 ranked Cardinals.
This game showed that the Heels can live up to their preseason hype when they're dialed in like they were for much of the first half. If the Heels play like this in every game for the rest of the ACC slate, Tar Heel opponents will be hard pressed to beat Carolina, especially in the Dean Dome.