As gritty as this Cardinal team has been playing in recent weeks, it is difficult nigh impossible to beat legitimate national contenders on their home court in the last week of February.
The Tar Heels, many of whom were significant contributors on last year’s NCAA runner up, are nothing if not a legit contenda for the crown.
So a victory last night would have indeed been an upset of consequence.
But, after savoring Syracuse’s delicious victory over Duke on last night’s undercard, I became oddly hopeful. The only ACC team to beat the Orange at home is Louisville. Not only did the Blue Devils fall in the Dome, but so too Florida State, Miami, Virginia along with a few other league wannabes.
So, even though U of L has been winning more with grit and determination lately than excellent play, there were reasons to believe the Cardinals would perform well in Chapel Hill.
But, they didn’t.
And now have lost 10 in a row to ranked foes on the road.
* * * * *
The Cards hung in during a herky jerky opening half for both teams.
Despite being ofer 6 from beyond the arc, ofer 3 at the charity stripe (- 17 in those two stats), giving up 8 offensive boards, not scoring for the last two minutes of the stanza after hitting 6 shots in a row to surge back into contention, Louisville was only down 30-33.
Twenty six of the Cardinals points were in the paint.
Hope remained in an ugly game where the Tar Heels couldn’t seem to find any rhythm.
Yet they did when play resumed after the break, pushing ahead by 7 at 33-40.
Then came U of L’s 1:08 of excellence. A Donovan Mitchell lay up. An Anas Mahmoud lay up after a Ray Spalding steal. And a Mitchell trey. With 16:08 to play, the score was knotted at 40.
Then the Tar Heels steadied. The Cardinals floundered.
Louisville pulled within a deuce at 43-45. Then Carolina pulled away, keeping the visitors easily measured the rest of the way.
* * * * *
Louisville was abysmal at the free throw line.
The Cardinals missed their first six charity tosses, and didn’t make a FT until there was 7:41 to play and they were down a dozen.
They ended up 4/13 at the line.
Mitchell was the Cardinals’ only double figure scorer with 21.
Deng Adel had 8 points and 6 rebounds for the game. Deng Adel had 8 points and 6 rebounds in the first half.
Louisville was -13 on the boards. Carolina had twice as many offensive rebounds, 16, to Louisville’s 8.
U of L had four more FGs than Carolina, but lost by 11.
The Baby Blues stiffling D took U of L out of its offensive game. Such as it is. The Cardinals lost their mojo and started firing up bad shots. Meanwhile giving up some easy ones at the other end.
Louisville was slow to the ball. Louisville was weak underneath when it mattered after, as previously mentioned, scoring 26 of its 30 first half points in the paint.
The Cardinals, schooled by North Carolina, were totally out of sorts.
On this night at Tobacco Road, Louisville did not play like a legitimate contender.
It was a seriously disheartening performance, a clunker.
— Seedy K