By Ed Peak
Okay, the critics can begin. “I knew this was going to happen sooner or later.”
Yes, Louisville was totally outplayed by North Carolina Saturday but it’s not the end. Not with three more ranked teams to follow. Plenty of time to readjust, get more quality wins.
A lot of things went wrong during the loss to North Carolina. Rebounding. Consistent scoring from some of its leading scorers. But the most puzzling things missing were the excitement and toughness the Cardinals have played with this season.
Maybe the Cards were thinking playing at home against a team three weeks earlier they embarrassed 83-62, wouldn’t be that tough. Not Saturday, this was North Carolina, ninth ranked team in the nation.
“I didn’t think we came out with much fire,” said Louisville Coach Chris Mack. “I’m disappointed for our fans, great environment and essentially to end the half with no offensive rebounds and let Carolina dismantle us one the glass. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am, that effort alone.”
The game was designated as a “white out” and had a boxing theme with Muhammad Ali videos. But the Cardinals came out limping and were out-punched. North Carolina had four players score in double figures, led by Luke Maye’s 20 points and 11 rebounds. Cam Johnson added 19 points and 10 rebounds. UNC out-rebounded the Cards 49-32, 18-7 on the offensive boards good for 18 second chance points.
Louisville (16-6, 7-2) ranked 15th once in the first half missed 10 of 11 shots from the field and trailed 44-28 at halftime. The Cards did bounce off the mat cutting the lead to 58-49 midway through the second half.
Guard Christen Cunningham was on his game with 15 points, four rebounds, nine assists and one turnover. Cunningham agreed with Sutton.
“We just got bullied. I mean we got punched.,” said Cunningham. “We didn’t drive them out. I think Carolina, their staple is two things. Transition and rebounding we knew. We just didn’t perform like we needed to.”
The Cards play at 12th ranked Virginia Tech (18-3, 7-2 ACC) Monday. The Hokies under Buzz Williams are coming off a record setting 47-24 road victory over a good North Carolina State team Saturday. Monday’s game will be the second of four straight ACC opponents.
No time for more rope-a-dope, passive aggressive is counter productive.