UNC extends winning streak to four games by surviving overtime against Louisville

Tuesday night’s UNC game was good, then bad, then extremely stupid. When the smoke cleared, the Tar Heels came away with a 90-83 overtime win on the road to Louisville. The refereeing was abysmal towards the end of the match and it turned a close contest into a chippy fest which saw fans throwing objects onto the pitch after two different calls.

UNC kept the score much closer in the first half than it should be if you only looked at how they were playing and the baskets Louisville was making. The Tar Heels took a 36-35 locker room lead after shooting 45% from the field. Much like last game against NC State, UNC had good production from beyond the arc with 12 threes in the game. Louisville made 15 of its shots from long range, accounting for more than half of its field goals made.

Brady Manek led the way for Carolina 24 points ahead of Armando Bacot’s 19-point, 22-rebound double-double. RJ Davis had a solid game with 18 points, including four threes, and Caleb Love followed with 16 points and six assists. Leaky Black also had some absolutely huge baskets on his way to 13 points, including three long-range shots to continue his hot shot of the last five games.

A huge lopsided disadvantage for the Heels was points from the bench. Continuing to play shorthanded without Dawson Garcia and Anthony Davis, Carolina got no points from their bench in the game. Louisville got 44 points from theirs. It’s extremely tough for the starters, but Carolina’s starting five managed to do enough to get the win in the end amid all the chaos.

Things didn’t need to be as close as they were. Carolina picked up a fairly comfortable victory about halfway through the second half before the Cardinals came back strong. The UNC offense raced 7-0 to get back in the lead with some breathing room before the lead disintegrated again. Despite Bacot and Davis committing four fouls, they managed to protect themselves enough to get through overtime.

The referees had a pretty slapstick game early on, but they completely lost the plot on the home stretch. If you had told me that they tossed a coin on the calls to be made, I would have had no trouble believing you. Bacot and Matt Cross battling for the ball under the basket brought in Jae’Lyn Withers to push Bacot out of the way, Bacot sold him and a technical foul was called. Things never really bounced back from there. It was an unnecessarily chaotic streak from ACC referees who left much to be desired all year.

UNC desperately needed a road win in the conference in order to stay in the discussion for the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels have been perfect at home, but that’s a different story away from Chapel Hill. It was good to see them come away with a victory in an extremely hostile environment.

Carolina will play its first game against Duke on Saturday on a four-game winning streak. Let’s hope Love remembers how much he hates this darker shade of blue, because it would be great to do five.

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