Steering clear of the negatives, North Carolina were led by Marcus Paige to one of their biggest nonconference wins in quite some time, beating Louisville 93-84, which should help them get a very big bump in the next Top 25 poll after showing up at 24 last time around.
The loss to Belmont is already forgotten, and the 32 points from Paige on a special shooting night that included 9-of-12 from the field, 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and a perfect 11-for-11 from the line goes to show what kind of talent this team has, even without P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald. Kennedy Meeks put on a special performance off the bench with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists, as the pace of the game seemed to be a bit much for the Cardinals, turning the ball over 14 times, finishing with only 8 assists.
The new rules in College Basketball which make it almost impossible to play press defense without having someone foul out hurt Louisville, seeing Montrezl Harrell leave the game with five fouls and four more players pick up four. Without him, the Tar Heels had no problem dominating under the basket, winning the rebounding battle 40-35.
In the first half, it was something of the Russ Smith show. He scored 22 points in the first period, finishing with 36, but hardly got any help from the rest of his teammates (Chris Jones scored 20), combining to shoot 30.2% from the field. It was the fifth time Rick Pitino coached against North Carolina, losing every time. The last one came in the 2008 NCAA tournament.
For North Carolina, the win is more proof that this team has plenty of talent going into the season, even without the national media hounding their players like it has been doing with Kentucky, Kansas and Duke. They might not be in the first line of national title contenders, but they’re not too far from it, and if things click early on, this might be the best season for North Carolina in quite some time.
Since June 5th it’s not been a very pleasant time — it’s been probably the most difficult time I’ve had as a coach. It has not been fun in every way, shape or form. But today, out on that court watching their excitement, bumping with them, then going in the locker room celebrating, that’s what I coach for.
Roy Williams has been criticized in recent years for doing a sub par coaching job, mishandling the talent he’s had at his disposal. He has plenty of it this year, and the win over Louisville, even without two key players and the loss to Belmont still buzzing in his ear, proved that he hasn’t lost his touch just yet, and that Marcus Paige is headed towards a special kind of season.
We just wanted to come here and give better effort. We had a bad taste in our mouth, cause we had to watch the whole film of the Belmont game. We wanted to come here with the mindset that we can change our season and get back in the right mind frame that we’re one of the best teams in the country if we play together and hard.