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UNC pushes win streak to four games by surviving overtime against Louisville


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

Tuesday night’s UNC game was good, then it was bad, then it was extremely dumb. When the smoke cleared, the Tar Heels came away with a 90-83 win in overtime on the road at Louisville. The officiating was abysmal toward the end of the game and it turned a close contest into a chippy fest that saw fans throwing things onto the court after two different calls.

UNC kept the score much closer in the first half than it felt like they should be if you were only watching how they were playing and the baskets Louisville was making. The Tar Heels took a 36-35 lead into the locker room after shooting 45% from the field. Much like last game against NC State, UNC got some good production from beyond the arc with 12 made threes in the game. Louisville made 15 of their shots from long distance, accounting for over half of their made baskets.

Brady Manek led the way for Carolina with 24 points ahead of Armando Bacot’s 19-point, 22-rebound double-double. RJ Davis had a strong game with 18 points, including four threes, and Caleb Love followed with 16 points and six assists. Leaky Black also had some absolutely huge baskets on his way to 13 points, including three shots from long distance to continue his hot shooting the last five games.

A huge lopsided disadvantage the Heels had was points from the bench. Continuing to play short-handed without Dawson Garcia and Anthony Harris, Carolina got zero points from their bench in the game. Louisville got 44 points from theirs. That’s extremely hard on the starters, but Carolina’s starting five managed to do enough to pull out the victory in the end amid all the chaos.

Things didn’t need to be as close as they were. Carolina had a fairly comfortable victory about halfway through the second half before the Cardinals stormed back. The UNC offense went on a 7-0 run to put themselves back ahead with some breathing room before the lead disintegrated again. Despite the fact that both Bacot and Davis had four fouls, they managed to protect well enough to make it all the way through the overtime period.

The referees had a pretty slapstick game from the start but they completely lost the plot down the stretch. If you told me they were flipping a coin on what calls to make I’d have had no trouble believing you. Bacot and Matt Cross fighting for the ball under the basket resulted in Jae’Lyn Withers coming over to push Bacot out of the way, Bacot sold it, and a technical foul was called. Things never really rebounded from there. It was an unnecessarily chaotic stretch from ACC refs that have left a lot to be desired all year.

UNC desperately needed a win on the road in the conference in order to remain in the discussion for the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels have been perfect at home, but it has been a different story away from Chapel Hill. It was good to see them come away with a win in an extremely hostile environment.

Carolina gets to ride into their first game against Duke on Saturday on a four-game win streak. Hopefully Love remembers how much he hates that darker shade of blue, because it would be great to make it five.