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    With Defense and an Overtime, Louisville Tarred North Carolina 78-68
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    Three weeks ago, the University of Louisville basketball Cardinals (18-3, 6-2 ACC) were the better team when they took on the North Carolina Tar Heels (17-5, 7-2) in Chapel Hill. Unless you look at that final 8.5 second stretch when Marcus Paige hit a circus layup to take the lead and the win. Saturday, it was redemption time. It took some time, an overtime in fact, but the revenge was complete as the Cards came out winners 78-68

    The game was a “White Out” with fans asked to wear white attire. Leaving aside the fashion sense of it (it’s way after Labor Day), the Cardinal crowd complied. And, as expected, a roar of approval went up when Coach Rick Pitino broke out his white suit.

    The tenth ranked Cards were coming off two juggernaut offensive performances against Boston College and Pittsburgh. Not juggernaut-like in terms of points scored but in terms of shooting the shots that go in. When Louisville needed offense, they turned to guards Terry Rozier and Chris Jones. In turn shortest men on the court delivered. They would have to again against the 13th ranked Tar Heels.

    Delivering wouldn’t be the strong suit of the first half as Louisville went back to it’s shooting woes. The Cardinal shooting percentage in the first half was 26%. North Carolina’s defense was adequate, but the Cards couldn’t knock down shots. They also couldn’t rebound. The Tar Heels rebounding edge was 27-15 with 11 of them being offensive, which gave chances for put backs which NC made on a fairly regular basis.

    At halftime with the Cards behind 36-25, the speech in the locker room had to have been get Rozier, Jones and Montrezl Harrell the ball. Wayne Blackshear, hampered by first half foul trouble, had to put the ball in the basket, too. When Mangok Mathiang outscores you in a half, that’s trouble.

    After coming out of the locker room, you could tell the Cards meant business as soon as you saw Pitino without his jacket on. “I need the old Louisville team back,” he told his squad, meaning the team that played defense. Slowly but surely, they worked their way back into it with good paint play by Harrell plus Jones and Rozier on the perimeter.

    People at the KFC Yum! Center would complain about the officiating and they may have had a point. After all, when you’re the home team you expect things to go your way. They wouldn’t for Louisville. But as Pitino always tells his players, don’t let the referees decide the game. That note apparently has sunken in.

    Though NC went up by as many as 18 points, the Cardinals kept at it and all of a sudden they took the rebounding edge. And by going to the paint for Harrell often, they took the lead in points in the paint and second chance points. They also forced North Carolina into 33 fouls, including 3 foul-outs by key players. 

    With under a minute to go, the Cards took the lead and nearly won the game in regulation on a Harrell three that just missed. The arena rocked as a sea of white jumped up and down and let out their bird gang yell.

    The overtime was all about Louisville, outscoring the Tar Heels by 10 to take the victory. North Carolina leaves Louisville without a victory as the away team. Ever. Roy Williams, the head Heel said Pitino simply out coached him. All the Louisville coach said was, “We believed we were going to win it.”

    The box score shows gaudy numbers for the big three. Montrezl Harrell put the team on his back and put in 22 points and 15 rebounds (yet another double-double). Terry Rozier matched him with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Chris Jones scored 17. Wayne Blackshear, for all his trouble knocked down the three ball that broke the game open.

    Louisville is back on the road again Tuesday at number 23 Miami and on Saturday at number 2 Virginia. The Cards come back the the KFC Yum! Center on Wednesday, February 11 for a rematch with Pittsburgh. Tip off is a late 8pm.

    Photo by: Tim Girton/

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    About Tim Girton

    Tim Girton writes about University of Louisville sports here at and his love for Louisville continues on his photoblog, called This Is Louisville.

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