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Louisville decimated by North Carolina in return to action

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Returns from Covid pauses continue to be unkind to the Cardinals.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville’s second return from an extended Covid pause looked an awful lot like its first. The Cardinals were blitzed by a bigger, better and healthier North Carolina team, 99-54, Saturday night at the Dean Smith Center.

The loss wound up being even more lopsided than the 85-48 beatdown U of L received from Wisconsin when it came back from an 18-day layoff in December. It was also Louisville’s largest margin of defeat since before the start of World War II.

Wonderful.

The Cardinals actually showed some promise in the game’s first 10 minutes, climbing out of an early 14-7 hole to tie the score at 17. The Tar Heels wound up scoring 15 of the half’s final 19 points, effectively putting the game out of reach at the midway point.

Carlik Jones was the lone Louisville player to score in double figures, finishing with 13 points and four steals. On the other side, five North Carolina players scored in double figures, led by reserve Day’Ron Sharpe’s 21 points and 11 rebounds.

North Carolina finished the night with seven more assists (29) than Louisville made field goals (22).

I don’t even know what to say to wrap this one up. There was a clear excuse for tonight to go poorly, but for it to be as flat out embarrassing as it was over the last 10 minutes of both halves ... I don’t know, man. Why even make the trip?

Of course the worst part about all this is there is not really any time for this team to find its footing. Lose to Notre Dame on Tuesday — a Notre Dame team that has been markedly better over the last month — and suddenly you are squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble.

Forget shaking the rust off, this group needs to shop-vac the layers of rust off itself if it wants to regain the positive momentum it had accrued on the first day of this month. Here’s hoping.