By Adam Lucas
1. Solid Saturday afternoon road win for Carolina, cruising past Louisville, 80-59.
2. Armando Bacot was back in the starting lineup on Saturday, returning from an ankle injury that held him out of Tuesday’s trip to Virginia. The Tar Heel big man had a double-double before halftime with 11 points and ten rebounds at the break. Foul trouble limited him in the second half, and he finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds.
3. Bacot was joined in the starting lineup by Puff Johnson, making his second career start (the other was at Virginia Tech in place of Bacot, who missed that game with a shoulder injury). Johnson had a quick stretch of eight points early in the second half that helped the Tar Heels stretch the lead near 20.
4. Tremendous job by D’Marco Dunn defensively on El Ellis. Ellis, a North Carolina native, had started the game hot with 11 quick points, primarily by drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. He did it against a series of Tar Heel defenders, but when the Heels put Dunn on him at the 7:31 mark, Ellis was scoreless for the rest of the half. With Louisville’s primary offensive option cut off, Carolina built a 37-26 halftime lead. Dunn was a stellar +18 in just 13 minutes of first half playing time. He also made some big offensive plays in the second half, scoring ten points to go with five rebounds. It felt like the best game of Dunn’s young Carolina career.
5. Without Ellis, the Cardinal offense simply wasn’t very good in those first 20 minutes. They shot 32 percent from the field, 11 percent from the three-point line, and were completely unable to take advantage of Carolina turnovers. Louisville managed just two points off seven UNC turnovers in the first half. Carolina’s active hands on defense also made a difference; the Tar Heels had 11 steals, a season high for a regulation game (the Heels had 12 in four overtimes against Alabama). Caleb Love led the way with five steals, and Leaky Black had three.
6. Carolina is going to have to be judicious about playing defense without fouling as they get into the middle of the ACC schedule. They committed 12 fouls in the first 12 minutes of the second half on Saturday, enabling Louisville to stay within sight on a day when the Cardinals were not playing well at all. Hubert Davis eventually went zone with 7:30 left to try and provide a different defensive look. Carolina sent UVA to the line 19 times on Tuesday night (just 12 attempts for Carolina) and watched Louisville, a team with very little intent to get the ball inside, take 28 free throws to Carolina’s 23.
7. That double-double for Bacot is the 59th of his Carolina career. His next one will tie him with Billy Cunningham’s 60 as the most in Tar Heel history.
8. Good day for the Carolina bench. Hubert Davis used a variety of lineups throughout the game, and got good contributions from Dunn, Dontrez Styles other Jalen Washington. The Tar Heel bench handily outscored the Louisville reserves, 26-9. Factor in a good day from Puff Johnsonnormally a reserve, who had ten points, and the Tar Heel depth has been impactful.
9. You hear about officials when things go bad, but not always when they do things well. Credit to Roger Ayers–generally considered the best official in the ACC–for whistling Ellis for kicking his leg out to draw a foul while shooting in the first half. It wasn’t a popular whistle in the Yum Center, but it was the right call, and one that hopefully will deter other shooters from trying something similar.
10 Pete Nance did not play for the third straight game as he continues to come back from a back injury.
11. Very strong showing by Louisville-area Tar Heel fans. The Yum Center is traditionally one of the most hostile arenas in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but a struggling Cardinals team combined with a Saturday afternoon tipoff enabled a huge contingent of Carolina fans to obtain tickets. Heel fans even got a “Tar!” “Heels!” chant going in the second half after the attendance begin to thin out.
12. Love went 0-for-7 from the three-point line, breaking his school record streak of 45 straight games with a three-pointer.
13. As you probably know, Saturday was Carolina’s first road win of the year. This next week is a big one, with two home games (Boston College on Tuesday and NC State Saturday) before hitting the road again for Syracuse. With a jumbled ACC, there are still plenty of opportunities to play the way back towards the top.