After nearly three weeks off, the Louisville Cardinals finally return to action against North Carolina.
It was a rude reawakening for Louisville as they got stomped by the Tar Heels 99-54.
The Cards previous game was a 16-point win over Georgia Tech on February 1. With COVID diagnoses going up to coach Chris Mack, there was some doubt as to who might actually be available for this matchup.
Remarkably, the only two inactives for Louisville were their walk-one, Josh Nickelberry and Aiden Ingiehon, both of whom had been dealing with nagging injuries.
Speaking of injuries, this game saw the return of Malik Williams. Perhaps the Cards’ best returning player, Williams had been sidelined since November with a foot injury.
Louisville would need to get it together fast, as they only had four more scheduled games after this one and whatever form the postseason might take, and would have to reach peak form quickly.
North Carolina has been having a historically bad year. The bluest of college basketball blue bloods, they’ve spent most of the season out of the national rankings and have played some terrible basketball.
The teams stayed close for the first ten minutes and tied at 18 with just over nine minutes left to go.
But then rust and fatigue started taking their toll on the Cards and the Tar Heels broke away, slowly but surely increasing their lead over Louisville. UNC got ahead by 17-points a couple times in the final minutes of the first half, before a last-second dunk had them going into halftime with a 48-29 lead.
Carlik Jones and Quinn Slazinski each had six points in the first half.
The Tar Heels shot almost 60 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, including 6-13 from three-point range.
The second half was more of the same, with the Cards not having the energy to properly defend against UNC or respond in kind.
The Tar Heels continued to increase their lead as the game wound down, going up by as many as 49 points in the final minutes.
It was their largest margin of defeat in 82 years.
UNC dominated Louisville in every facet of the game. They converted 16 Cardinal turnovers into 26 points. They controlled the inside, outrebounding the Cards 45-34 and outscoring them in the paint 58-32.
Carlik Jones was Louisville’s leading scorer and the only one in double-figures with 13 points on 6-15 shooting.
Samuell Williamson was the leading rebounder with ten boards, almost making it a double-double with nine points.
Malik Williams scored four points and grabbed three rebounds.
North Carolina moves to 14-7 for the season (8-5 ACC). Louisville falls to 11-5 (6-4 ACC).
The Cards will look to head home and turn things around as they face Notre Dame…hopefully…on February 23.<