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UNC 79, Louisville 69: The Heels get revenge by knocking out the Cardinals

Run it Back Roy was at it again in the Yum! Center.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Going into today’s game against Louisville, there were undoubtedly a lot of questions about whether or not Carolina was able to hang with them. Chris Mack’s squad has size, they have athleticism, and they have a defense that gave the Tar Heels their worst loss in the Dean Smith Center with Roy Williams as the head coach. Thankfully, we discovered that they indeed can hang with the Cards, and got their revenge win with a 79-69 victory.

Right out of the gate, the Heels looked much better on defense than they did during round one. They were able to force a few turnovers, and Luke Maye was able to score eight points in the first 10 minutes. Maye was vastly better in this game compared to his performance against Georgia Tech, and was able to not only take care of the ball better, but got a lot of good shots in the paint. In fact, the entire team was able to as they finished the first half with 24 points down low. It was a breath of fresh air for a team that had so heavily relied on threes lately that it was easy to wonder if they were able to play traditional Roy Williams offense effectively.

Cameron Johnson was also huge in the first half, and went into halftime with 12 points and 100% shooting from the floor. Johnson and Maye matched each other’s point production, scoring only four points fewer than the Cardinals did all half. The most impressive part about the Heels’ offensive performance during this time is that it was all done without much help from freshman stars Coby White and Nassir Little, who both combined for six points in the half. Completing a 30-6 run with a lack of three-pointers and without the two best players of the past couple games is a great sign for this team going forward.

As for the Cardinals, their half was much more bleak. Jordan Nwora and Steven Enoch, two players that had standout performances in the first game, finished the half with five points combined. The most impressive part about this is that all of those points came from Nwora, as Enoch was shutout in the first half and logged two fouls. The Cardinals finished the half shooting 35% from the field, and only made 25% of their three-pointers after getting just about any shot they wanted back in January.

Give some credit to Louisville, however, because they began the second half looking like a team that wasn’t ready to lay down. After being dominated on the glass in the first half, the Cardinals started crashing the boards harder and managed to go on a 9-0 run with 10 minutes left in the game. Coby White answered the run by taking a layup to the hoop to draw an and-one call, and from there the Heels went on a 13-4 run of their own. The Cardinals once again continued to fight, and went on an 8-0 run that Luke Maye ended with a wide open dunk. From there, the Heels let Louisville drain a couple of unnecessary threes, but ultimately the damage was done.

Today’s win is one that Roy Williams would qualify as an ugly win, especially given how this team is built. Hearing that UNC made just 6 of their 24 threes in the game without knowing what the final score was, it is safe to say that anybody hearing this would assume that this was another brutal loss. However, Carolina was able to get back to what Roy Williams loves to do: dominate the glass, play inside-out, play strong defense, and wear out the other team. This was a huge victory to answer such a brutal loss last month, and they now have all the momentum in the world going into their second matchup against the Wolfpack, who are coming off of the worst loss ever seen by a ranked team in the shot clock era.