UNC basketball battles fatigue, denies Louisville in endurance test

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CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina drained its energy while overcoming Monday night’s survival question, and didn’t deny the fatigue that became a factor.

The Tar Heels were tired, as coach Hubert Davis and guard Caleb Love said, but they were still able to dig deep enough to defeat Louisville 70-63 in Atlantic Coast Conference basketball at the Smith Center, and avoid taking another blow to their livelihoods from the NCAA Tournament. .

Brady Manek scored 17 points and Armando Bacot provided 12 points and 15 rebounds as North Carolina (20-8 overall, 12-5 ACC) had game-winning plays in the streak and earned its 20th victory here during Davis’ first season in charge. .

The Tar Heels got 16 points each from Love and RJ Davis – Love offset seven turnovers by delivering in key moments – and became the sole third-place possessor in the crowded race to the top of the league standings, a half -game behind second-place Notre-Dame for the moment.

North Carolina, as usual under Hubert Davis, put a heavy workload on its starters, the burden added to what was required in Saturday’s victory at Virginia Tech. Love, Bacot and Manek recorded over 37 minutes two days ago on the road against the Hokies, then Love (all 40 minutes) went the distance here against Louisville, with Bacot (39 minutes) and RJ Davis (36 minutes) not far behind.

Hubert Davis said he noticed signs of fatigue during Tar Heels rotations on defense and closures on perimeter shooters. Love said he felt it in his body, especially in his legs.

“But when we needed a defensive save, we had a defensive save,” Hubert Davis said, “and when we needed a field goal, we had a field goal.”

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Louisville moved to 64-63 from North Carolina on Malik Williams’ 3-pointer on Bacot with 2:56 left. But that was the last gasp for the visiting Cardinals (12-15, 6-11), who missed their last five shots from the field and eight of their last nine.

Williams, Dre Davis and Jae’Lyn Withers had 10 points apiece for Louisville, which lost for the eighth time in the last nine games. After Withers’ 3-pointer tied the game at 60-60 with 6:22 to go, the Cardinals managed to connect on just one more shot the rest of the way, Williams’ 3.

Bacot dunked Manek’s assist to give North Carolina a 66-63 lead with 95 seconds left, and produced a highlight at a crucial spot. RJ Davis drove and fed the cutting Manek on the baseline. He dropped a pass for Bacot’s dunk that beat the shot clock.

Then, coming off a Tar Heels timeout, Love scored a tough bucket on a stab drive in traffic, increasing the lead to 68-63 with 37.9 seconds left.

“We didn’t perform the original piece,” Love said. “So I just took what the defense gave me and went down.”

This report will be updated with more information and comments.

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Adam Smith is a sports reporter for the Burlington Times-News and USA TODAY Network. You can reach him by email at [email protected] or @adam_smithTN on Twitter.

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