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#4 North Carolina Runs Away From Louisville, 86-70

North Carolina

By: Matt Bowers

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—Fourth-ranked North Carolina built a big first-half lead and withstood a Louisville rally to run past the Cardinals, 86-70, on Wednesday night in the Smith Center.

The Tar Heels led by 20 points late in the first half before allowing the Cards to narrow their deficit to as few as five midway through the second. UNC responded with a 10-2 run and hit its last five shots of the game to build the final margin back up to 16.

“When they cut it to five, I loved how we reacted and we responded,” head coach Hubert Davis said. “We got stops and didn’t put them on the free throw line. We rebounded the basketball. We got good shots on the offensive end and got to the free throw line and got into the penalty.”

RJ Davis finished with 21 points, six rebounds, six assists and just one turnover to lead UNC. He has multiple three-pointers in 14 consecutive games, the second-longest such streak in school history.

Jae’Lyn Withers shined against his former team, posting his first double-double as a Tar Heel with 15 points and 10 rebounds (both season highs) off the bench.

“I thought his activity on the defensive end and his athleticism, being able to guard multiple players, and rebounding the basketball were impressive,” Hubert Davis said of Withers’ performance. “He was able to score around the basket, get to the free throw line and make free throws. We don’t win this game without J-Wit. He was fantastic. We needed him to have his best game of the season and I’m just really happy and really proud of him.”

The Cardinals shot 64 percent from the floor as a team in the second half, hitting 13 of their first 18 after the break to tighten up what was a near-blowout in the first 20 minutes.

“I think we got a little too comfortable,” said RJ Davis. “We have to do a better job of sustaining our lead, confidence and energy.”

Armando Bacot had one of his better games of the season with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists (tying his season high). He passed 1957 National Player of the Year Lennie Rosenbluth for fourth place on the UNC career scoring chart and Warren Martin for fourth in school history in blocked shots.

“I thought in the first half we did a great job of defending, and I thought in the second half we kind of got away from it a little bit,” Bacot explained. “It’s conference play, it gets ugly at times. When they cut it to five we responded, so I’m happy with that.” 

Cormac Ryan, who entered the game having made 6 of 25 three-point attempts in the last six games, matched his season high with four treys in the first half alone. He shot 4 for 7 from behind the arc for 14 points.

Carolina (14-3, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) has won seven consecutive games, its longest winning streak since winning eight in a row in 2018-19.

Louisville fell to 6-11, 1-5.

The Tar Heels are off to their best conference start since going 8-0 to begin ACC play in 2015-16 and have won five consecutive ACC games by double digits for the first time since 2007-08. 

How It Happened
First Half
• The Tar Heels went on an 11-0 run in the opening five minutes to take a 15-4 lead. It was the 11th time in 17 games UNC has posted at least a 10-0 run this season.
• After making 10 of 12 field goal tries during one stretch, the Tar Heels followed by missing eight consecutive shots over a span of over 5:00. Louisville cut the Tar Heel lead from 27-11 to 29-17 before a Cormac Ryan three-pointer broke the dry spell.
• Carolina led by as many as 20 points in the first half, shooting 50 percent while limiting the Cardinals to 38 percent. The Tar Heels drained 6 of 14 first-half three-point attempts (42.9 percent) while Louisville was 2 for 10 (20.0 percent).
• UNC had 12 assists on 17 first-half baskets while the Cards had 1 assist on 12 buckets.
• Bacot matched his season high with five assists in the opening 20 minutes.

Second Half
• After shooting 37.5 percent as a team in the first half, Louisville hit 9 of its first 10 field goal tries in the second half.
• Louisville used a 12-2 run to cut the UNC advantage to 55-50.
• The Tar Heels replied with a 10-2 run to push the lead back to double figures at 65-52.

Postgame Tidbits & Notes
• The Tar Heels are 20-7 all-time versus Louisville, including 11-4 since the Cardinals joined the ACC in 2014-15 and 6-1 in Chapel Hill. Carolina has won five in a row in the series.
• UNC improved to 8-0 at home this season and 35-5 in the Smith Center under head coach Hubert Davis.
• Carolina has held its opponents below 40% from the floor in 19 of 34 halves this season and in five of the last six games.
• Bacot’s 19 points gave him 2,061 in his career, passing Lennie Rosenbluth (2,047) for fourth place in UNC career scoring.
• Bacot blocked three shots for 192 in his career. He passed Warren Martin (190) for fourth in school history.
• Bacot’s seven rebounds gave him 1,514 in his career and moved him past Virginia’s Ralph Sampson (1,511) for fourth place in ACC history.
• Davis has hit 4 of 7 three-pointers, his 14th consecutive game with multiple threes. That’s the second-longest streak in UNC history behind Justin Jackson’s 15 in a row in 2016-17.
• Davis went 5 for 5 from the free throw line and is 67 for 70 at the line this season. His percentage of .957 is on pace to break the ACC single-season record.

Up Next
Carolina will visit Boston College on Saturday January 20 at 2:15 p.m. in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Follow Tar Heel basketball on X at @UNC_Basketball and @UNCMBBstats and on Instagram at UNC_Basketball.






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