Carolina is on the road for the second time this week, as they’ll travel to Louisville and do battle with the 11th ranked Cardinals. The last time we saw Carolina, they blew a 15 point lead on the road, in a eventual 1 point loss at Notre Dame. It was a second consecutive loss for the Tar Heels, where they saw the opponent make a shot with less than 2 seconds remaining, to beat them. It was also a 6th consecutive loss for the team, which wasn’t expected once Cole Anthony returned from injury.
This game means a lot more to Louisville than it does to Carolina. The Cardinals are in the midst of battling for the ACC regular season, and are trying to position themselves for the NCAA tournament next month. After back to back inexcusable losses last week, they responded with a 24 point drubbing of Syracuse earlier this week. Chris Macks’ squad is lead by Jordan Nwora who averages over 18 points per game. Nwora hasn’t had the kind of season he envisioned when he decided to return back to school, but is more than capable of turning up his play as the games magnify in importance. Dwayne Sutton anchors the interior, and grabs over 8 rebounds a game. There aren’t many teams that can match up with Carolina’s size and physical play inside, but Louisville is one of the few.
Carolina isn’t use to playing the role of spoiler, but here we are. The belief remains high among the coaching staff and the players to turn this thing around, if that’s to happen they better get a move on it. Carolina has experienced some success in the Yum Center, since Louisville joined the ACC, 3 keys to continuing that success:
Consistent Offense: In all these losses that have come in the final minutes, it has in large part to due with the offense bogging down late. Or in games like at Florida State for instance, they didn’t make a shot for over 11 minutes, eliminating any chance at getting back in the game. If Carolina could score in spurts, this wouldn’t be as big a issue, but this team isn’t capable of doing so. Louisville is excellent in the half court, so they’ll have to work for the points they get. Nonetheless it needs consistent scoring of the basketball.
Win the Rebound Battle: With the Cardinals having the size and strength inside, it naturally makes them a good rebounding team. Carolina hasn’t had a problem rebounding the ball, but the teams that have size have caused problems this year. This team isn’t built to run, so they need to control the pace of the game, and the best way to do that is to rebound the ball better than the opponent. Carolina also needs to capitalize on the second chance opportunities they may have.
Converting on Free Throws: In addition to the scoring droughts costing the Tar Heels games, so have the large number of missed foul shots. They shot them well on Monday, but rarely has the team had back to back good games from the charity stripe. Louisville plays a physical brand of basketball, which means there’s a chance for fouls aplenty. If Carolina can get them in foul trouble, and score with the clock stopped they’ll increase their chance of winning substantially.
Series Info: Overall Carolina is 15-6 against the former Big East Power. Under Roy Williams, they are 8-3, and are 2-2 inside the Yum Center, having won the last two.
UNC - 90th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 105.0 ( 118th ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.0 ( 81st )
Louisville - 10th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.7 ( 12th ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 92.7 ( 35th )
TV Info: Despite Carolina having lost 6 in a row for the first time since 2002, their games are still drawing big ratings. Which is why this game will tip off at 4 on ESPN.