Despite the slow start, the Cardinals turned it on at the end of the first half. Two consecutive steals accompanied by easy fast-break buckets kick-started the formidable Louisville backcourt. The Cardinals' lead extended to double digits with just under two minutes remaining in the half, and the Tar Heels cut the deficit to single digits just once the rest of the contest.
Who stood out?
Louisville's Asia Durr couldn't be stopped en route to 28 points in 28 minutes. The sophomore point guard took care of business, pressuring the UNC backcourt and contributing to several of the 17 Tar Heel turnovers on Sunday.
For North Carolina, Taylor Koenen and Paris Kea accounted for the bulk of the team’s offensive production. Kea had 26 points and two assists, and Koenen added 14 points and two assists of her own.
With UNC's injuries, Koenen was counted on to shoulder the scoring load but couldn't deliver the win. Coming off a career-high 17-point performance in which she played all 40 minutes against Georgia Tech, Koenen only shot 6-of-17 from the floor and 1-of-5 from three.
When was it decided?
With 6:54 minutes left in the third quarter. Louisville held a 12-point lead and forced Koenen to commit her third foul of the game. Head coach Sylvia Hatchell decided to substitute Koenen out to keep her out of further foul trouble.
Koenen had only been subbed out for 34 seconds when she was brought back in after UNC committed a turnover and allowed five straight points. The Cardinals increased their lead to 17 points and never looked back.
Why does it matter?
All things considered, this conference matchup was not make or break for either team. The Cardinals already have an impressive NCAA Tournament résumé, and they were expected to beat the young, guard-heavy Tar Heels.
But another loss for North Carolina mitigated any momentum from a buzzer-beating win over Georgia Tech earlier in the week. If the Tar Heels hope to make a tournament push, they'll need to excel in their final two rivalry games and run the table in the ACC Tournament.
Where do they play next?
North Carolina will travel to Raleigh to take on No. 15 NC State on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Tar Heels notched their most impressive victory of the year over the Wolfpack on Jan. 29.