Louisville routs UNC at home

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JONATHAN M. ALEXANDER jalexan­[email protected]­sob­server.com

North Carolina coach Roy Wil­liams was at a loss for words Satur­day.

In his 16 sea­sons as head coach, the Tar Heels had never lost at home by more than 16 points. And af­ter achiev­ing one of its tough­est wins of the sea­son on Tues­day — a 90-82 vic­tory over N.C. State on the road — UNC was de­stroyed at home against Louisville, 83-62.

The loss to Louisville might have been UNC’s worst per­for­mance of the sea­son.

“I didn’t think we had the en­ergy, the ex­e­cu­tion, the tough­ness, the sense of ur­gency,” Wil­liams said. “It was sort sim­i­lar to the way I felt when we started the Ken­tucky game. They had much more pep in their step than we did.”

In that game, the Tar Heels started out flat. And the Wild­cats, fu­eled by the en­ergy of their crowd, out-hus­tled the Tar Heels. They screamed af­ter

ev­ery bucket, while the Tar Heels showed lit­tle emo­tion.

UNC (12-4, 2-1 ACC) led for one minute against Louisville, and that was by three points in the open­ing minute. When the Car­di­nals took the lead with 18:35 left in the first half, they never let it go.

Louisville (11-5, 2-1) started the game 4-for-4 from be­hind the 3-point line, and 7-for-7 from the floor over­all. The Car­di­nals out-hus­tled the Tar Heels to nearly ev­ery loose ball, and things just seemed to go their way.

“You take a night off, teams in the ACC are just go­ing to beat you up,” UNC se­nior guard Kenny Wil­liams said. “And that’s what hap­pened to­day.”

“We just weren’t fo­cused,” he added. “We kind of got what we de­served.”

Nearly ev­ery key ro­ta­tional player for UNC strug­gled. They mis­han­dled passes, turned the ball over and missed open shots.

Se­nior for­ward Luke Maye, UNC’s sec­ondlead­ing scorer who came into the game av­er­ag­ing 14.8 points per game, scored nine points, and was 3-for-14 from the floor. Fresh­man Coby White, who was av­er­ag­ing 14.7 points per game, scored only four points and did not make a field goal. UNC’s lead­ing scorer, grad­u­ate se­nior Cam John­son, who was av­er­ag­ing 16.2 points per game, scored 10 points but did not make a 3-pointer for the first time all sea­son.

And Gar­ri­son Brooks, who coach Wil­liams called the player of the game against N.C. State, had five points, zero re­bounds, and two turnovers.

The only player to give the Tar Heels a spark in the first half was re­serve Bran­don Huff­man, who av­er­ages less than three min­utes per game. He had four points and one of­fen­sive re­bound in three min­utes to help cut what was once a 15-point Louisville lead to sin­gle dig­its at half­time.

But it did not get bet­ter from there. Louisville con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate UNC in the sec­ond half. The Tar Heels shot 34.5 per­cent from the floor, and were 3-for-22 from be­hind the 3-point line. Their 62 points on Satur­day, and 34 per­cent shoot­ing, were both sea­son lows.

“I think we un­der­es­ti­mated them,” Huff­man said. “De­fense has been kind of shaky, and up and down this year, but it def­i­nitely wasn’t where it needed to be this spe­cific game.”

“I think this is an im­por­tant loss to take, be­cause we’d much rather have this now, than later in the sea­son.”

Louisville shot 52 per­cent from the floor over­all, and 42 per­cent from 3. The Car­di­nals out-re­bounded the Tar Heels 40-31. Louisville ju­nior for­ward Dwayne Sut­ton, who came into the game av­er­ag­ing just un­der 10 points, was nearly flaw­less. He scored 17 points and had 10 re­bounds, 7 as­sists and no turnovers.

“If you think that you can win only when you shoot the ball, then you’re not very tough,” coach Wil­liams said, when asked whether UNC could win games with­out shoot­ing well. “And that re­ally ticks me off. You’ve got to be able to win bas­ket­ball games ugly. We’ve won hun­dreds of bas­ket­ball games ugly.

“In­stead of just act­ing like a pansy and think­ing, ‘Oh my shot’s not go­ing in’ -- if that’s the case, go find your momma and hug her.”

The Tar Heels had been play­ing their best bas­ket­ball re­cently. They had won four straight, held op­po­nents to un­der 43 per­cent shoot­ing in each game, and won two road games to open up ACC play. They ap­peared like they were fi­nally hitting their stride.

But Wil­liams said af­ter the win against N.C. State, the Tar Heels had two “medi­ocre prac­tices,” which seemed to carry over into the game.

“I told them what­ever they did to pre­pare for this game, never do it again,” Wil­liams said. “It’s my job to get them pre­pared to play, and I didn’t think we were pre­pared to play to­day.”

ROBERT WIL­LETT rwil­[email protected]­sob­server.com

Louisville’s Steven Enoch (23) dunks over North Carolina’s Luke Maye (32) on Satur­day at the Smith Cen­ter in Chapel Hill.

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