Three days after a defensive effort, Chris Mack called “deplorable,” and a disturbing loss at underwhelming Pittsburgh, the University of Louisville Cardinals charged into the DeanDome and melted the Tar Heels faster than Saturday’s short-lived snowfall.
U of L’s first W ever in Chapel Hill.
Roy Williams’ worst home loss ever at Carolina.
An opening tip to final buzzer smackdown by the visitors in black that turned the Baby Blues black and blue. (Oh how such a fun win forces me to want to wax poetic!)
Louisville 83- North Carolina 62.
Really. I mean, really. No, kids, it’s not a typo.
This is finally taking down the Christmas tree and discovering one last gift that everybody forgot about, and it’s a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 Shot Range Model Air Rifle.
And, yeah, the Cardinals shot the Tar Heels eyes out.
This High Noon Surprise was a gift that kept on giving, the talk of the day. ESPN’s crawl read, “North Carolina stomped at home by Louisville.” Seth. The Phonse. Dickie V. Jimmy Dykes. All the wags were talking Cardinals beatdown.
* * * * *
So, where do we turn to explain this?
Or try to.
Numero Uno. What has the Professor intoned too many damn times for too many damn years?
“You always look good when you make your shots.”
U of L opened the game, draining its first seven FG attempts. Allow that to sink in. 7/7.
As long time Cardinal play by play announcer Ed Kallay would say, “You can’t shoot much better than that.”
It was Bombs Away! from the get go. Dwayne Sutton trey. Jordan Nwora trey. Dwayne Sutton deuce. Christen Cunningham steal and score. Dwayne Sutton J. Malik Williams three. Jordan Nwora bomb.
At the first media timeout, 4:47 into the tilt, U of L led 18-8. The discombobulated Tar Heels’ PG Coby White was sitting on the bench with two personals.
Cliché Part Deux. Hand the mic to Mr. Bunny, who ever sayeth, “Do Not Relinquish the Lead.”
At 19:13 of the 1st, NC’s Garrison Brooks tallied a deuce and converted the +1 for a 3-0 lead.
Thirteen seconds later, Sutton’s longball knotted it up at 3-3.
Twenty five seconds after that, Nwora twine-timed his first shot from beyond the arc.
The clock read 18:35.
The scoreboard read Visitors 6, Home 3.
It was a lead this enigmatic U of L squad never relinquished.
Every time the Tar Heels tried to grab some mo, the Cards said no.
After that first double digit advantage, the home team’s attempts at a rally were thwarted with impunity.
When a Leaky Black score pulled Carolina within six, Stephen Enoch immediately parried with a three. U of L led by as many as 15 in the 1st, and were up nine at the break.
A Khwan Fore layup with 17:19 to play after intermission increased the Cards’ advantage to double digits at 47-36. North Carolina never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.
With this up and down Cardinal team, it never really seemed like cruise control as the advantage inexorably widened. But on this glorious Saturday noon in Chapel Hill, the Cardinals had North Carolina’s measure. Start to finish.
Lots of empty baby blue seats as the stomping wended its way to a glorious conclusion.
Jay Bilas: “I’ve never seen the Dean Dome empty like this.”
* * * * *
Allow me to now praise Dwayne Sutton. You know, the DuPont Manual grad, who wasn’t considered good enough by the Cards’ former regime to matriculate over a couple blocks and ball for the Cardinals.
I shan’t use any descriptors. Just the numbers. They tell the tale.
38 minutes. 17 points. 6/11 from the field. 4/4 at the foul line. 10 rebounds. 7 assists. 4 steals. Two on consecutive trips midway through the 2d. 0 turnovers. As in NO Turnovers.
I am now going to skip a little space to allow you the reader to let the magnificence of Sutton’s effort and execution sink in.
. . .
. . .
. . .
Christen Cunningham did what Christen Cunningham does. He ran the show. He dished out 5 assists, comported himself with maturity against Roy Williams’ vaunted pressure D, and netted all four of his FG attempts.
Stephen Enoch was a manly man underneath. 17 points. 11 rebounds.
Jordan Nwora hit five of the eight treys he attempted.
Malik Williams, Khwan Fore, Ryan McMahon, Darius Perry, and VJ King all contributed in one way or another.
You don’t beat the #10 team in the land (KenPom) by 21 points on its home court with three guys. You don’t mention any random untoward moments in the aftermath of such a great team effort.
Kudos to Chris Mack and his staff. Whatever they did between Wednesday’s defeat in Steel City and yesterday afternoon on Tobacco Road was pretty damn special. Bottle it, dudes.
* * * * *
It’s a testament to the Cardinals’ dominance that it prevailed handily, while suffering its worst FT shooting performance of the season. They hit but 16 of 26 charity tosses. Usually a 61% performance in a road conference game would be fatal. Not yesterday.
U of L held Carolina to 3/22 from beyond the arc. Cameron Johnson came into the game with the nation’s third best % from long range. He was 0/4.
Prior to the game, Carolina led the land in rebounds per game. U of L won the board battle, 40-31.
* * * * *
After the victory, Louisville jumped 13 spots in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings from #39 to #26.
While watching this dream of game unfold with Doc, I tried to think of any previous Cardinal road W that was as inconceivable as this one.
The only one I can recall is that 79-76 victory in Rupp over #4 UK by Denny Crum’s worst contingent, the 12-20, ’97-’98 contingent.
Of the improbable U of L wins through the years, 83-62 over North Carolina in Chapel Hill on 01/12/19 stands with the improbablest.
As commanding as U of L’s performance was, as a fan who never feels secure until the buzzer sounds, I was still unsure when Mack called a stoppage with 5:58 to play and the Cards up 72-52.
“If I didn’t have a dog in this hunt, I’d know this game was over. But I’m still nervous.”
When Mack called another timeout at 1:21, and the lead still an almost incomprehensible 20, I put down my pen and notepad and said, “I feel comfortable now.”
— Seedy K