The North Carolina men’s basketball team (16-6, 8-3 ACC) exercised its road demons by narrowly defeating Louisville (11-10, 5-6 ACC), 90-83, to get its first win outside of Chapel Hill in almost a month.
Each team began the game exchanging 5-0 runs, but it was the Cardinals who took the early lead thanks to four 3-pointers. UNC responded by cutting a seven-point deficit to a two-point lead after an 8-0 run. Sophomore guard RJ Davis had a hot start for North Carolina, scoring eight points in the first 10 minutes, while shooting 3-4 from the field.
The scoring began to slow down for both teams, but UNC was able to maintain its narrow lead, aided by a couple missed layups from Louisville. After the Cardinals tied it with two baskets by junior forward Sydney Curry against center Armando Bacot, the UNC junior paid him back by dunking over him, giving the Tar Heels the small edge once again.
But the turnovers North Carolina started to cost them and the Cardinals made back-to-back threes to get their lead back. UNC had a chance to go into the locker room ahead after forcing a Louisville turnover and the Tar Heels converted, using a Davis stepback jumper to take a 36-35 lead.
North Carolina started the second half off hot going on a 9-0 run capped off by a corner 3-pointer from senior guard Leaky Black. The run was fueled by great team defense, getting two steals and one Bacot block off the backboard. UNC quickly had its largest lead of the night, holding a 48-39 advantage.
The Cardinals continued their great 3-point shooting and stormed back to grab the lead. The Tar Heels missed some easy looks, and Louisville capitalized, going on a 12-0 run. After nailing seven triples in the first half, the Cardinals knocked down another seven in the first 12 minutes of the closing half.
The two squads then started trading buckets, with no one able to seize control of the game. UNC was finally able to tie the game after a floater from sophomore Caleb Love and took the lead when Bacot brought in a key rebound and found an open Davis for the triple.
A transition score and two free throws put the Cardinals ahead again, but Bacot got a huge and-one to give his team a 74-72 lead. Love’s critical turnover led to a Louisville layup and the Tar Heels couldn’t convert on the other end, sending the game to overtime.
The team traded off buckets until Black gave UNC a three-point lead with his third triple of the game. Then, a huge foul call on Louisville that gave the Tar Heels a five-point advantage and possession. Another tough call on the Cardinals plus a technical foul put this game away for the Tar Heels in an unceremonious fashion. North Carolina pulled off a late 90-83 win.
Who stood out?
Black got the clutch shot and a season-high in points, putting together one of his best performances of the season. Graduate transfer forward Brady Manek led the Tar Heels in points with 24 and made several big shots to keep his team in the game.
When was it decided?
Black’s gigantic 3-pointer in overtime gave the Tar Heels the breathing room they needed to escape with a victory. They were able to take advantage of some controversial fouls by making their free throws.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels came into this matchup riding a three-game win streak. But they were all at home. They haven’t won a road game since Jan. 2 at Boston College. They also had a losing record at the KFC Yum! Center – including a 72-55 drubbing in 2020 – before evening up the series at three.
UNC ends its road drought and gets its fourth win away from home. It’s also the team’s fourth straight win, meaning the Tar Heels will come into the first game of the 2022 Tobacco Road rivalry with some positive momentum.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will try and get a statement win the season against the No. 9 Duke Blue Devils to get them away from the NCAA Tournament bubble
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