By Beau Kilpatrick—
The No. 7 Louisville Cardinals travelled to Chapel Hill last night to challenge the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels. This ACC heavyweight bout was previewed to be an amazing fight, however, the Cards were out-hustled by UNC 63-74.
Louisville losing this game really doesn’t take anything away from them that they didn’t already have. But winning this game would have put U of L on top of the ACC and held No. 1 seed potential in the NCAA tournament. Louisville can still win the ACC tournament and possibly the ACC regular season if UNC loses some of their back loaded games.
Both teams came into this game with high emotions. Both teams were so pumped that neither could make a shot in the opening minutes of the game. They were air-balling by shooting way too hard and the ball was banging off the backboard or ricocheting off of the rim.
The key to this loss for the Cards was shooting. As a team, Louisville shot a pathetic 30 percent from the free throw line and 25 percent from beyond the three-point arch. They only made 4-13 of their free throws. This has been an area that Louisville has struggled with all season.
Likewise, the three-point jumper wasn’t falling for the Cards either. They didn’t make a single three-pointer in the first half. Donovan Mitchell made three jumpers in the second half and Quentin Snider and Jaylen Johnson each made a three-pointer.
Donovan Mitchell led Louisville with 21 points, three assists, a steal and a block. It took a while for Mitchell to get warmed up and it wasn’t until the second half that he became a threat to UNC. But at least he showed up to play. Most of his teammates fell flat and lacked hustle in Chapel Hill. Mitchell was the only Cardinal to score into double-figures.
Deng Adel contributed eight points; three assists, a steal and a block, and led the team with six rebounds. This was a poor performance by Adel who consistently scores in the low teens. Adel did provide us with possibly the play of the game when he launched from nearly the free-throw line and threw down a Jordan-like, one-handed jam that reminded us of the great No. 23 that once played in baby blue on the floors of Chapel Hill.
Check out the dunk: https://youtu.be/6syF1_H0uwA
The Cards scored most of their points in the paint, especially in the first half. Anas Mahmoud had a pretty good game. He shot 80 percent from the field for eight points. Mahmoud also added five rebounds, two steals and four blocks. Mahmoud seems to play his best ball when faced with formidable opponents.
Overall, the Cards actually shot better from the field than UNC. They made 44 percent from the field, while UNC only shot 37 percent. However, the Tar Heels made nearly 39 percent of their three-pointers, while U of L only shot 25 percent.
Free throws were another huge factor that brought the Cardinals down. Their 30 percent from the line was atrocious. They only made 4-13 free throws. UNC was consistent from the charity stripe, making 21-29 for 72 percent. I believe that this was the deciding factor in the game. Louisville would have fared much better if they could have knocked down these extra attempts.
Coach Pitino was visibly frustrated with his team’s performance. This was easily seen as he was heading to the locker room at halftime. A UNC fan shouted some harassing words at Pitino and Coach P was having none of it. The coaching staff had to physically restrain Pitino and escort him into the locker room. The fan was later removed from the game by event security.
Pitino press conference on the fan: http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=18745730
Louisville needs to analyze what happened in Chapel Hill. They need to understand why they failed so that they can develop a solution. This better happen quickly as they only have three games remaining in the regular season. They will face Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame to finish out the season.
The No. 7 Cardinals will host Syracuse at the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday, February 26. The game will be broadcasted on CBS at 2 p.m.
As always, GO CARDS!!! #L1C4