Not possible, no way, no how, but Louisville throttles North Carolina

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

Never. Be real.

The last thing anyone expected, especially among longtime diehard University of Louisville basketball fans. Go ahead and pencil in another L, no way to avoid getting mopped off the floor at Chapel Hill. A certain North Carolina runaway.

No rush switching on the TV, no hurry to see a blowout, tuning in less than a minute to tipoff. Afraid to watch, knowing no lead is safe, expecting the worst. No chance in hell. Bring it on, getting used to the bad news.

Except that the worst wasn’t to be. Not this day.

Two hours after comparing this group to a friend at Kroger with a bunch of YMCA basketball junkies, telling him not to get his hopes up. This Louisville team had wrapped up an 83-62 win over North Carolina before 21,000-plus fans on their home court, the 21-point loss the largest ever for UNC under Coach Roy Williams.

Two hours after comparing this group to a friend at Kroger with a bunch of YMCA basketball junkies, telling him not to get his hopes up.

Exactly what UofL fans needed, those expecting a long, long season, losing faith, having resigned themselves to the worst. A win at the least expected moment, over one of college basketball’s blue bloods, a giant booster shot three games into the heart of the ACC schedule.

Think maybe Coach Chris Mack’s message about keeping players in front of them and out of the lane finally reached its audience? One kept expecting that perpetual flurry of UNC fast break layups, alley oops and back door slams. But they never came. Rarely has a North Carolina team thrown up so many bricks.

Jordan Nwora bringing his game face, with a different look, ready to rumble, no hint of ambivalence. Steven Enoch tired of riding the bench, bringing a different game, one that some had given up ever seeing, probably  his best ever. Dwayne Sutton again bringing that warrior mentality, fearless and aggressive.

The three of them sharing team-high scoring honors with 17 points apiece. Sutton with an amazing seven assists, Christen Cunningham with five assists. Only five turnovers during the game, compared to 14 for North Carolina. Out-rebounding the Tar Heels, 40-31. An unlikely 11 rebounds from Enoch, 10 rebounds for Sutton — first time double-doubles for each.

The most impressive performance by a Louisville basketball team in quite a while, coming on the heels of an ugly loss to Pittsburgh. The players maybe ready to listen. Mack with the same old message, keep the ball in front of you, keep them out of the lane. “When you do that, they will have a tough time scoring against you,” said Mack.

Keep that in mind, guys, and there could well be many more good times ahead this season.

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Why NCAA Champ Louisville wasn’t in ‘Champions Classic’

In case anyone was wondering why the University of Louisville wasn’t included in the “Champions Classic,” the 24-hour basketball marathon on ESPN which was minus the 2013 champs …

North Carolina, another traditional power, wasn’t included in the marathon either. One reason may have been that UofL and North Carolina were committed to the annual Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tip-Off event.

That’s about the only explanation that makes any sense. Why else would the leading network for sports leave the defending champions out of the picture? Incompetent programming otherwise.

The Louisville-Hofstra game was part of the invitational, as is the Tar Heels’ upcoming game against Holy Cross this Friday. Other teams participating in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off include Richmond, Fairfield, Belmont, Holy Cross, Cornell and Hartford. UofL’s first three games in the invitational aren’t tournament games.

 

Mohegan_sun arenaUofL next plays Cornell on Friday and Hartford next Tuesday — in on-campus non-tournament games leading up to two four-game tournaments Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 23-24, at the luxurious Mohegan Sun Casino at Montville, Conn. There the teams are divided up into the Naismith and Springfield brackets, where separate champions will be crowned.

Louisville, North Carolina, Richmond and Fairfield are in the Naismith bracket. Hartford, Hofstra, Belmont and Holy Cross are in the Springfield bracket. North Carolina and Richmond will play in the first game of the Fairfield bracket Saturday, with Louisville and Fairfield in the second game.

The winners of those two games will meet for the championship of the Fairfield bracket the following Sunday at at 1 p.m., followed by a consolation game at 3 p.m. Teams in the Springfield bracket will play championship and consolation games later that night.