On a wild Tuesday night in Louisville, Kentucky, UNC earned a much-needed road ACC win, 90-83 in overtime over the Cardinals, in front of a tense crowd in the KFC Yum Center. All 5 starters scored double figures, led by Brady Manek’s 24 points, on 10-18 shooting, to power the Tar Heels to the win. Armando Bacot recorded his 17th double-double on the season, with 19 points, and 23 rebounds. They shot 44% from the field, but 46% from behind the arc, and an efficient 80% from the foul line, to provide steady offense in a hostile environment. They held Louisville to 40% shooting for the game, but they did allow the Cardinals to make 15 triples, to keep in the game.
This game shouldn’t have been close, nor should it have gone into overtime, as Louisville entered with just an 11-10 record, fired their head coach last week, and suspended their best player last night. Nonetheless, Carolina couldn’t afford to lose tonight, as a loss would’ve taken them out of the projected NCAA Tournament field. When Caleb Love committed a turnover in the final seconds of regulation, that allowed Louisville to tie the game, which forced overtime, it felt like the game all but lost. Give credit to Carolina, for keeping their composure, and responding in the overtime period, as Louisville didn’t make a field for the final 2:31 of the game.
Despite Louisville not being a quality opponent, you could make the argument this is the best road win so far this season, and provides confidence for a group that has struggled away from Chapel Hill. Here’s what to take away from Carolina’s fourth straight win:
Starters Stepped Up: Hubert Davis only played eight players in tonight’s game, as the bench made up for only 21 game minutes, and didn’t score a point. That means that all 90 points were scored by the 5 starters, and Carolina needed every one of them. Brady Manek had arguably his best game as a Tar Heel, leading the team with 24 points, on 10-18 shooting. Leaky Black had his best offensive game in his four seasons, making every shot he took, scoring 13 points. The Tar Heels won’t win many games where their bench is outscored 44-0, and still win, but tonight’s Carolina’s starters played with poise, necessary to win on the road in this league.
3 Point Shooting: Carolina stayed hot after shooting 56% from behind the arc on Saturday, as they were 12-26, which averages out to 46%. R.J. Davis was 4-8 from deep, and Brady Manek was 4-9 to lead the way. Leaky Black was 3-3, and every one of them came when they needed someone to make a play.
Composure: In a hostile environment, where they blew a 10 point lead, Carolina never lost their way composure, something we couldn’t have said just two weeks ago. Last week was all about gaining confidence and taking that success on the road tonight. It wasn’t always pretty, but Carolina out-toughed Louisville, which paved the way to the win.
3 Point Defense: Carolina’s defense woes showed back up again, allowing Louisville to knock down 15 triples, keeping them in the game. El Ellis scored all 25 points in the second half, and overtime session, going 5-11 from behind the arc.
Bench: They only played 21 game minutes, and didn’t register a single point. It’s hard to argue with the use of the bench during this stretch of winning basketball, but at some point, Carolina is going to need consistent contributors coming off the bench, during the back half of league play.
Up Next: It’s the first of two meetings with the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday in Chapel Hill, as Coach K will visit the Smith Center one final time. College GameDay will be on campus for the game, before a 6 PM tip on ESPN.