In a game that Carolina absolutely had to have, as we’re closing in on Selection Sunday, the Tar Heels put together their most complete effort of the season, dismantling the Louisville Cardinals 99-54. UNC shot a blistering 61% from the field, while holding the Cardinals to just 33% shooting. As has been the case all season long, when this team shoots the ball well from behind the arc, they are tough to beat, and tonight they went 8-18 from distance, paced by Kerwin Walton, and his 5 made triples. Louisville, which hadn’t played since February 1st, looked out of sorts, turning it over 16 times, which Carolina turned into 26 points. They also bullied the visitors on the glass, out-rebounding the Cardinals 45-34. Of their 45 rebounds, 16 were offensive, and they converted that into 14 second chance points. You look up and down the stat sheet, and Carolina simply dominated Louisville in every facet of tonight’s game, which brings more value as to why that game against Northeastern had a purpose.
The 99 points are easily the most they’ve scored this season, topping the 91 points at Duke a few weeks ago. Carolina put 5 players in double figures scoring, led by Day’Ron Sharpe’s 21 points and 11 rebounds. Sharpe was 10-14 from the field, as he was too much for Louisville to handle on the interior. Kerwin Walton was one of three starters to reach double figures, as the freshman continued his impressive shooting, as he was 7-10 from the field, and 5-7 from behind the three point line. Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks added 14 & 12 respectively, with Walker Kessler giving the team 10 off the bench as UNC frontcourt combined to score 57 of the teams’ 99 points.
So much was made about the players that Louisville was going to be without entering tonight’s game, but when the ball was tipped, they were only without 2 guys, not that it would have mattered with the way UNC played. Here’s what we learned in the 45 point victory, the second largest in ACC play under Roy Williams:
Inside Dominance: For anyone who thinks that Carolina should play a more perimeter orientated brand of basketball, there’s no helping you at this point. This team is at its absolute best, when they play through their now quartet of post players with the recent emergence of Walker Kessler. The best part was that they all gave a high level of production, despite playing limited minutes. Sharpe produced a double-double in only 17 minutes, Armando Bacot’s 14 points and 9 boards, came in just 18 minutes. Kessler scored 10 points in only 12 minutes. Brooks’ 26 minutes were the most of any post players, and second most on the team behind only Caleb Love. If Carolina can keep on bullying teams on the interior, they're going to be tough to beat moving forward.
Freshman Production: Carolina scored 48 points in the first half, the most of any half this season, before they scored 51 in the second half. Of those 48 points, 33 were scored by freshmen players. Of the 99 points, 71 were scored by freshmen. Their growth has been stunted this season by various different factors, but they’ve still displayed that they have the talent it takes to win at this University in this conference. We’ll see what this performance does for their development, and their confidence when they take the court next Wednesday against Marquette.
Defense: As great as Carolina played on the offensive end of the floor, they dominated this game on the defensive end as well. They held Louisville to a season low 54 points on 33% shooting, including just 6% from behind the arc. Their defense fueled their offense, as they scored 26 points off turnovers and in transition. It has always been said that when Roy Williams get his team to buy in defensively, they’ll be tough to beat, and they certainly looked like that tonight.
Free Throws: The only blunder from the win over Louisville was that they only shot 7-18 on their free throws, which was just 39%.16 of the 18 foul shots attempted were by post players, and they combined to go 5-16.
Up Next: UNC added a home game against Marquette next Wednesday in Chapel Hill. The game will start at 7, and will be televised on ESPN2.