Roughly 48 hours following the most important win of the season, UNC is back on the court tonight, as they host Louisville, in the second to last home game this season. Carolina earned a much-needed 65-67 win at Virginia Tech over the weekend, earning their first Quad 1 win of the season, as they try to build their case for making the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The Heels are currently 19-8 overall and are 11-5 in league play, and despite those marks, they can’t afford any more hiccups the rest of the season.
Things haven’t gotten much better for Louisville since the first matchup between the two schools earlier this month. On Saturday they did snap a seven-game losing streak, as Mike Pegues has struggled to rally the team, since being named the interim head coach back in January. The Cardinals are currently 12-14 overall and just 6-10 in the ACC. Louisville doesn’t have any players averaging double figures scoring but does have three players averaging over 9 points per game, led by Noah Locke. As a whole this is a team that struggles to score the basketball, averaging 68 points per game, and shooting only 31% from behind the three-point line.
The first contest between these two teams was a chippy affair, that led to items being thrown on the court, as Carolina escaped with a 90-83 road win. All 5 starters scored 90 points that night, as that was the beginning of Hubert Davis tightening his bench. Brady Manek had one of his best performances as a Tar Heel, scoring 24 points, on 10-18 shooting.
As big as Saturday was for Carolina, another home loss to a below-average opponent would be detrimental to their postseason hopes. All 5 starters played at least 32 minutes at Virginia Tech, but tired legs isn’t an excuse this time of the season. They’ll need to bring the same level of energy tonight, to avoid another home upset:
Rotation: Hubert Davis has to play his best players right now, to make sure his team secures a spot in the Big Dance, but he has to manage their minutes much better than he has as of late. It was very evident early in the second half on Saturday that Brady Manek was gassed, and needed to catch his breath. The best way to steal minutes is to give them rest right before the media timeouts or to use a timeout of your own before the media break to give them extra chances to hydrate, etc. This is the first of consecutive Saturday-Monday turnaround for Carolina, which gives them a chance to simulate an NCAA Tournament scenario.
Defend 3 Point Line: Louisville may only shoot 31% from behind the arc as a team, but in the first matchup they were 15-35 from deep. That’s the only way Louisville can win this game is by making a number of perimeter shots, which means they won’t be afraid to shoot them aplenty. El Ellis was the marksman that hurt Carolina the most, going 5-11, but they’ll need to be conscious of Noah Locke, who leads the team in scoring.
Turnovers: UNC committed 15 mistakes on Saturday, but was able to overcome them, with a stout defensive performance. Caleb Love turned it over 4 times in the first matchup, including one that allowed the game to go to overtime. In their last home game, UNC turned it over 13 times, and Pittsburgh scored 24 points off of them. That’s a recipe for another home loss, something they can’t afford right now.
Series History: Tonight marks the 25th all-time meeting between two of the premier programs in the ACC, with UNUC holding a 17-7 advantage. Carolina is 8-4 against Louisville since they joined the league, and is 4-1 in the Smith Center.
UNC - 43rd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.5 (25th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 99.1 (88th)
Louisville - 129th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 102.8 (125th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.9 (86th)
UNC - 42nd.
Louisville - 124th.
TV Info: Tonight’s game will start at 7 PM on ESPN.
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