(Photo of Carlik Jones, Caleb Love, Jae'Lyn Withers: Robert Willett via the Atlantic Coast Conference)
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Coming off of their second prolonged pause due to COVID-19, much like their first return to action against Wisconsin, the Louisville men's basketball program found themselves on the wrong end of an egregious blowout, as they fell 99-54 to North Carolina on Saturday at the Dean Smith Center.
The 45-point loss is Louisville's largest margin of defeat since they lost to Cincinnati by the same margin, 62-17, back on Jan. 14, 1939.
Guard Carlik Jones was the only Cardinal to finish in double figures, as he had 13 points, compared to five Tar Heels. UNC's Day'Ron Sharpe led the way with 21 points.
While Louisville (11-5, 6-4 ACC) was missing guard Josh Nickelberry and center Aidan Igiehon, as well as all five walk-ons, the game marked the season debut for Malik Williams. The senior forward/center played 17 minutes and finished with four points and three rebounds.
While they had not played since Feb. 1, a 19-day layoff, the Cardinals did not look as listless as they did against the Badgers last December. However, the Tar Heels (14-7, 8-5 ACC) still presented an awful matchup for Louisville, COVID layoff or not, because of their stout interior presence.
Coming into this game with the best rebound margin in Division I and the second-best offensive rebounding mark, North Carolina put both on full display, as they out-rebounded Louisville 45-34.
As a result, the Cardinals surrendered 58 points in the paint to the Tar Heels, while tallying just 32 themselves, and shooting 32,8% from the floor and 11-22 on layups. Conversely, North Carolina had one of their best shooting performances of the season, as they connected on 60.9% of their field goals.
Compounding matters, poor closeouts on the perimeter at times by Louisville led to UNC shooting much better on three-point attempts. Shooting just 31.0% of their threes and averaging 5.2 of them heading into this game, the Tar Heels connected on eight three-pointers and shot 44.4% from beyond the arc.
Next up for Louisville, they will return home and host Notre Dame at the KFC Yum! Center on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST on the ACC Network.
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