No. 13 Louisville put forth one of its poorer efforts of ACC play in the first half of their game against No. 10 North Carolina, making just seven of their twenty-seven field goal attempts with Montrezl Harrell (eight points, 3-for-7 FG) being the only player with more than one made field goal. Guards Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear combined to shoot 2-for-12, and with that poor shooting carrying over into the start of the second half a comeback didn’t appear likely.
However slowly but surely Rick Pitino’s team worked their way back into the game, erasing an 18-point deficit to pull even and ultimately force overtime. From there it was all Louisville, as they outscored the Tar Heels 18-8 in the extra session and won by the final score of 78-68. Rozier finished with 22 points and ten rebounds despite shooting 6-for-20 from the field, and Harrell added 22 and 15 with 14 of his points coming after halftime.
The Cardinals shot 33.8% from the field and 7-for-21 from three on the day, but they made up for it by getting to the foul line far more often than the Tar Heels. Louisville shot 27-for-44 from the foul line, and while the resulting percentage wouldn’t be considered “elite” they did outscore North Carolina (11-for-20) by 16 points there. Add in the fact that Louisville grabbed more than half of its 25 available misses in the second half (13 offensive rebounds in the second half), and the Cardinals were able to find a way back into the game despite shooting a low percentage from the field.
Louisville scored 26 second-chance points, 15 more than North Carolina, and the fact that the Tar Heels couldn’t keep the Cardinals off the offensive glass was the biggest difference when comparing their two meetings this season. In North Carolina’s 72-71 win three weeks ago Louisville grabbed just nine offensive rebounds, which worked out to an offensive rebounding percentage of 28.1%. Louisville’s offensive rebounding percentage in the rematch: 40.7%.
Losing Marcus Paige (15 points) for part of the second half due to a sprained ankle certainly didn’t help North Carolina, as his injury came at a time when Louisville was making its charge. But not taking care of business on the defensive glass hurt the Tar Heels more, as they gave a poor shooting team more chances to score points.
Add in the way in which Louisville’s pressure defense can gradually wear down opponents, and North Carolina was bound to pay the price (to be fair, this is easier to say in hindsight).
With the win Louisville (6-2) is one of three teams with two losses in ACC play, with No. 8 Notre Dame (8-2) and North Carolina (7-2) being the others. And depending upon what happens with No. 2 Virginia, which has games against No. 4 Duke and the Tar Heels over the next 48 hours, that group could move even closer to the top of the conference standings.
Louisville may not have high-level shooters but they are capable of finding their points in other areas provided they remain aggressive offensively. Saturday afternoon that resulted in second-chance opportunities and trips to the foul line, and advantages in those areas propelled Louisville to a comeback win that seemed unfathomable early in the second half.