No. 9 North Carolina gets pay­back on No. 15 Louisville

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

The North Carolina Tar Heels had one thing on their mind head­ing into their game against Louisville.

Re­venge.

The Car­di­nals beat the Tar Heels by 21 points in the first game be­tween the teams at the Smith Cen­ter on Jan. 12. It was the worst home loss dur­ing the Roy Wil­liams coach­ing era, one that se­nior Kenny Wil­liams said he and his team­mates did not for­get.

“We got some ‘get back’ that we have to get,” Kenny Wil­liams said Tues­day, ref­er­enc­ing the ear­lier loss.

Dur­ing Satur­day’s game, it sure looked that way. No. 9 North Carolina built a 16-point half­time lead and held on to beat the 15th-ranked Car­di­nals 79-69.

“I think I’ve got a com­pet­i­tive group that got their tails beat as badly as they could be beaten,” Roy Wil­liams said, “and I think they bounced back and were more aware and had greater ef­fort. Used their brain and their heart, both.”

UNC grad­u­ate se­nior Cam Johnson, who had 10 points in the first matchup and no 3-point­ers, had 19 points and 10 re­bounds. He made three

3-point­ers.. Se­nior for­ward Luke Maye, who had nine points in the first game, fin­ished with 20 points and 11 re­bounds. And Kenny Wil­liams had 10 points and three steals, in­clud­ing a clutch 3-pointer late.

“I think the big­gest thing for us was try­ing to just come out early,” Maye said. “Come out ready to go, and play from the jump. We didn’t do that last time. I thought we did that today.”

The game was not with­out drama, though. Af­ter UNC in­creased its lead to 18 points in the sec­ond half, Louisville went on a 9-0 run to cut the Tar Heels’ lead to nine points with about 11 min­utes re­main­ing.

The Tar Heels im­me­di­ately an­swered with a 10-2 run to go ahead 68-51 with 7:17 left. The Tar Heels scored on five con­sec­u­tive pos­ses­sions. That was all they needed.

UNC (17-4, 7-1) has won five con­sec­u­tive games since that ini­tial loss to Louisville (16-6, 7-2), and is 5-0 in ACC road games this sea­son. Louisville’s loss snapped a six-game win­ning streak.

The theme for Satur­day’s game com­mem­o­rated box­ing leg­end Muham­mad Ali, who is from Louisville. The Car­di­nals warmed up in hood­ies, and their mas­cot wore box­ing gloves.

But it was the Tar Heels who de­liv­ered the early knock­down. Af­ter the Car­di­nals took a 15-12 lead in the first six min­utes, the Tar Heels went on a 22-4 run over the next nine min­utes to take a 34-19 ad­van­tage with about five min­utes re­main­ing in the first half.

Maye, who played his worst game of the sea­son Tues­day against Ge­or­gia Tech, was big for the Tar Heels against Louisville. Af­ter the Ge­or­gia Tech game, Roy Wil­liams told Maye in front of the team that he had played the worst game of his ca­reer.

Maye took that as a chal­lenge and came out ag­gres­sive.

“If he doesn’t bounce back and play well we don’t win,” coach Roy Wil­liams said.

The Tar Heels were with­out fresh­man for­ward/ guard Leaky Black, who sprained his an­kle last week in the game against Ge­or­gia Tech, and Ster­ling Man­ley, who is deal­ing with a sore knee. Man­ley has missed the past nine games.

But their re­serves stepped up and gave them good min­utes. UNC sopho­more for­ward Bran­don Huff­man con­trib­uted with two points in four min­utes, and juniors Bran­don Robin­son and Seven­thWoods had two points each, and com­bined for seven as­sists.

While the Car­di­nals at­tempted to stage a come­back, the Tar Heels were just too much in their quest for re­venge.

“The way that they beat us at home, it was a lit­tle more sat­is­fy­ing,” Kenny Wil­liams said af­ter the game. “You know, you come in with a lit­tle more mo­ti­va­tion, and I think that showed in our play today.”

ROBERT WILLETT rwil­[email protected]­sob­server.com

North Carolina’s Luke Maye gets a dunk dur­ing the sec­ond half Satur­day at Louisville. Maye, who had nine points in the teams’ first matchup, fin­ished with 20 points and 11 re­bounds.

ROBERT WILLETT rwil­[email protected]­sob­server.com

North Carolina’s Coby White drives to the bas­ket Satur­day against Louisville’s Dar­ius Perry.

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