The No. 11 UNC women's basketball team (17-6, 8-4) lost to Louisville (17-8, 8-5), 62-55, on the road to break the Tar Heel's 8-game win streak in ACC play.
Jeff Walz’s energetic, trap-heavy defense immediately proved difficult for the Tar Heels, as UNC turned the ball over twice in the opening five minutes. While North Carolina soon regained its momentum, Louisville junior Hailey Van Lith went on an 8-0 run by herself to bring the Cardinals out to a 15-12 lead after the opening quarter.
UNC continued its struggles with a four-minute drought to begin the second quarter. Finally, thanks to the efforts of guards Kayla McPherson, Paulina Paris and Deja Kelly, the Tar Heels began to push the pace and attack the basket en route to a 10-2 run to end the half. North Carolina held the Cardinals scoreless for five minutes in the second quarter by dominating the glass and applying harsh interior pressure.
In the second half, Louisville began to turn up its intensity on the defensive end behind graduate guard Mykasa Robinson. The Tar Heels committed four turnovers in a three minute span, giving up their halftime lead to Louisville.
As Robinson applied the defensive pressure, Louisville graduate guard Chrislyn Carr — one of the best 3-point shooters in the nation — began to light it up from deep. Carr had 14 points in the second half on 4-6 shooting from 3-point range.
In the game’s final minutes, the Cardinal’s defensive intensity proved to be the difference. With a chance to cut UNC’s deficit to two points with less than four minutes to go, Paris had her 3-point shot stuffed by Van Lith. On the very next possession, Louisville’s defense collapsed on Kelly to force a turnover. Despite UNC's last-ditch efforts to attack the rim, North Carolina couldn't regain its rhythm, allowing Louisville to claim the 62-55 win.
Who stood out?
Robinson was a game-changer for the Cardinals, helping Louisville take over the game in the third quarter. The graduate student recorded three steals, two defensive rebounds and three assists in the third quarter, carrying Louisville to a 10-1 lead. Her defensive plays also energized the Cardinals, especially when she drew a charge on McPherson with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Louisville’s Morgan Jones and Nyla Harris were both dominant on the glass, combining for 20 boards. The duo effectively boxed out and pulled down backside rebounds for Louisville, taking advantage of Alyssa Ustby's absence.
When was it decided?
In the game’s final minutes, the Cardinals’ defensive pressure caused a nearly 4-minute UNC drought. North Carolina’s struggles to score down the stretch, as well as poor clock management on the defensive end, allowed the game to slip away from the Tar Heels.
Why does it matter?
With two Tar Heel starters absent from this game in Ustby and Eva Hodgson, North Carolina was missing its best rebounder and 3-point shooter, respectively.
UNC shot eight percent from distance and allowed the Cardinals to grab 11 more boards than them, demonstrating just how important Ustby and Hodgson are to North Carolina's squad.
When do they play next?
UNC will hit the road to take on Syracuse on Thursday, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.
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