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Luke Maye bounced back against the Cardinals

After one of his worst games of the season, the senior stepped up to even things up with Louisville

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

In one of Carolina’s most encouraging victories of the season last night, senior forward Luke Maye stepped up with 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead the #9 Heels past #15 Louisville on the road, 79-69. The Cardinals sliced what had been a 19-point deficit to nine midway through the second half, but the outcome was never truly in doubt as Maye and the Heels used a 13-4 push to keep the hosts at bay.

The team as a whole flipped the script from three weeks ago, when Louisville bullied Carolina in the Dean Dome 83-62 to deliver the program’s worst home loss under coach Roy Williams and the lone ACC setback thus far. And Maye flipped his own script from both that stinker (3-of-14 shooting) and Tuesday night (2-of-9), when he played one of his worst games in a UNC uniform despite a blowout win over Georgia Tech.

Carolina didn’t shoot particularly well in the payback victory, hitting only 42% from the field, and Maye was no exception with a 7-of-18 mark overall and 1-of-4 from beyond the arc. But it was an improvement in efficiency for him and he was able to do enough to get the job done, limiting his turnovers to only two while dishing out two assists and adding a steal.

Most importantly, Maye helped the Heels dominate the glass. UNC grabbed 49 rebounds to Louisville’s 32, including an 18-7 advantage on the offensive boards and an 18-3 count in second-chance points. Five of Maye’s 11 rebounds were on offense, and three of those produced Carolina buckets, two scored by Maye himself – a tip-in and-one in the first half and a dagger 3 with five minutes to play that stretched the lead to 71-53 before Louisville vaguely threatened a frenetic comeback in the final minutes.

Maye was aggressive early, going 4-of-9 for 12 points in the first half with a couple of nice post moves. The senior was held scoreless for a ten-minute stretch spanning intermission, but he sandwiched a couple of open dunks around the aforementioned long ball to post an eight-point second half.

Just 21 days after being dominated inside and on the boards by the Cards, the Heels outclassed them in both areas to pick up their fifth straight win since that disappointing defeat. Carolina played some of the best defense of the season and put together several hustle-filled stretches that flummoxed Louisville, including a 22-4 run in the latter part of the first half to pull ahead.

Another worthy candidate for player of the game is senior guard Cam Johnson. He contributed to the sound effort on the boards with 10 and hit three of UNC’s six three-pointers to put up 19 points. But that is simply the beat going on for Johnson, while Maye’s 26th career double-double was a desperately-needed jolt in areas that were severely lacking in the January setback to Louisville.