After outrebounding the top rebounding team in the country and leading for all but 47 seconds of Saturday’s game, Louisville is winless in the Smith Center no more.
The Cardinals (11-5, 2-1 ACC) upset No. 12 UNC (12-4, 2-1 ACC) on Saturday, behind a dominant performance in the paint. The Tar Heels, who had won all three previous meetings in Chapel Hill, were doomed by turnovers (15 total, 11 in the second half) and poor 3-point shooting (3-22).
The loss was UNC’s first by 20-plus points at home since January 2002, a humbling setback for a Tar Heel team that opened conference play with a pair of road wins.
With a high-to-low pass, Luke Maye found Garrison Brooks for an and-one down low and the opening three points of the game. But, from then to the first media timeout, it was all Louisville. The Cardinals went on an 18-5 run and made their first seven shots, four of them 3-pointers.
Out of that break, the Tar Heels’ defensive energy was tangible. With a lineup of mostly reserves, they started to trap Louisville at halfcourt, forcing a jump ball and some poor shots. With Coby White in early foul trouble, fellow first-year Leaky Black even got some early minutes at point guard.
But the Cardinals weren’t too fazed and extended their lead to 32-18 by the 7:57 mark — on a still excellent 13-18 shooting. UNC trailed by as many as 15, but a Kenny Williams three cut the deficit to 10 and brought the Smith Center crowd to its feet.
The Tar Heels couldn’t get much closer than that in the first half, though. They trailed 43-34 at halftime despite holding the Cardinals scoreless in the final 2:38 of the half. Louisville shot 18-33 in the first 20 minutes and, thanks mostly to 6-foot-10 center Steven Enoch, asserted itself down low with 20 points in the paint.
Out of the break, UNC quickly got the deficit down to seven with a bucket by Brooks but the Tar Heels soon after found themselves once again down by 15, tying the biggest hole they faced during the first half.