North Carolina exacted its revenge on Louisville with a 79-69 triumph Saturday afternoon at the KFC Yum Center. The dominant performance came three weeks to the day the Cards defeated UNC by 21 points in Chapel Hill, the most lopsided home defeat of the Roy Williams era.
UNC took the largest home crowd at the Yum Center this season out of the equation early on. The Heels seized control of the game midway through the first half thanks to some hot shooting from Cameron Johnson and an emphasis on taking the three-point shot away from Louisville. The Cards finished 10-of-29 from beyond the arc, but the bulk of those makes came when the game’s outcome had already been decided.
Louisville won the war of the boards in Chapel Hill by 11, making them one of just two teams this season to out-rebound Carolina, which ranks fifth in the country in rebound margin. The Heels made sure history wouldn’t repeat itself on Saturday, dominating the glass to the tune of a 48-31 advantage. Eighteen of those rebounds came on the offensive end, leading to 18 crucial second chance points for UNC. U of L managed just three second chance points of its own.
This was a disappointing performance in front of a crowd that was ready to explode (by the way, I’m ready to put the kibosh on these “specialty theme” games ... they haven’t gone well in recent years), but we’re still gong to end on three positives.
1. If you could only win one against these guys — UNC has only been swept in the regular season once over the last six seasons and that was by the 2014-15 Duke team that won the national title — it’s better for resume purposes to get the one on the road. Carolina appears to be hitting its stride, and that 21-point win in Chapel Hill is going to shine on Selection Sunday.
2. Darius Perry’s play late in the second half should go a long way towards restoring some of his lost confidence. UNC took the outside shot away from Louisville on Saturday, and when it did, Christen Cunningham appeared to be the only player capable of beating the Carolina defenders off the bounce. Perry is the other guy on this roster who possesses that skill, and this team is going to need him as it heads into this brutal stretch against teams with similarly gifted athletes.
3. We won on aggregate by 11.