It was and wasn't what you expected.
After a thriller in Chapel Hill where UNC staged a late game come back from down double digits, Louisville returned the favor for a 78-68 win in overtime.
UNC came out and dominated the first 22 minutes of game play staking a 12 point lead at the break and 18 with 17:51 left in the game. The contest to that point had been marked by poor shooting by Louisville and the Tar Heels mitigating its 42% shooting in the first half with an ORB% of 56%. The Heels got eight points from Nate Britt including two threes and six points from Joel James to take control of the game.
Despite the double digit lead, trouble was looming. UNC was committing too many fouls leading to a 14-5 foul discrepancy at halftime and multiple Tar Heels sporting at least two fouls. In the second half, the foul discrepancy continued and as the fouls piled up UNC's ability to adequately defend decreased. Louisville was also very aggressive getting the ball into the lane and drawing fouls from Tar Heel perimeter players trying to stop penetration or UNC big men at the rim. The fouls helped mitigate the fact Louisville shot 33.3% for the game and gave the Cardinals a 27-11 edge at the line.
Still, UNC managed to keep the Cardinals at bay until a 10-2 Louisville run tied the game at 53-53 with 8:20 left. J.P. Tokoto hit a jumper than got a steal and dunk to make it 57-53. Tokoto's dunk would be UNC's last made FG in regulation. As the game progress UNC's rebounding edge evaporated and the TO% rate skyrocketed. UNC committed 13 turnovers after halftime which led to just 20 shot attempts in the second half and overtime. All of this combined with Louisville, especially Montrezl Harrell, making just enough plays on the offensive end turned the game into a toss-up down the stretch.
With the game again tied at 59-59 with 3:54 left, neither team could get that one shot they needed to potentially win the game in regulation. After Kennedy Meeks and Chinau Onauku traded free throws to knot the game at 60 apiece, Meeks, Tokoto and Marcus Paige all missed shots to take the lead in the final three minutes. After UNC secured an offensive rebound off the last Paige missed, the junior guard turned it over to give Louisville a shot to win the game. The Cardinals' execution was also suspect as Louisville settled for a Harrell three as time expired sending the game to an extra session.
Overtime, as one might have guessed, was all Cardinals. UNC had both Johnson and Hicks already fouled out and eventually lost Britt to his fifth foul. The Heels' offensive troubles continued a Meeks basket early in the period being the only FG while the game was still in doubt.
UNC finished the game shooting 43.3% but 11-20 at the line and 19 turnovers doomed the Tar Heels to only it's fourth sub-100 offensive efficiency of the season and just the second since the December 3rd loss to Iowa. Paige led the Heels with 15 points but was just 2-6 after halftime. Tokoto had 11 points, 3 assists but committed 6 turnovers. Justin Jackson and Nate Britt had 10 points apiece. Meeks scored nine but he and Johnson were essentially non-factors. Johnson, after playing so well for several games, scored just two points, took only two shots but did grab 10 rebounds. Hicks was 0-3 filling in for Johnson. Foul trouble in the post and Louisville's defense led to one of the more lackluster games for the Tar Heel interior offense.
This is certainly a tough loss but not wholly unexpected. Winning a game during which a team holds an 18 point lead is ideal but Louisville should be credited for fighting back. After all this was a game between two very good and evenly matched teams. It was the reversal of the game in Chapel Hill and as much as it would have been nice for the Heels to steal one on the road, it is not an unexpected loss. Tip the hat to the Cardinals and move on.
Now the attention turns to Virginia. UNC is still in the thick of the ACC race tied again with Notre Dame and Louisville in the loss column just behind Virginia which is taking on Duke as of this writing. If the Heels can bounce back and defeat Virginia, UNC is right in the mix with eight ACC games left to play.