CRAWFORD | Five keys for the Cards at North Carolina
Eric Crawford runs through some keys for the University of Louisville as they travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., to take on North Carolina today in the Dean Smith Center.
Saturday, January 10th 2015, 10:10 AM EST
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WDRB) — No. 5-ranked Louisville visits the Dean Dome today looking for the program's first-ever win on the road against No. 18-ranked North Carolina.
At first glance, the Cards have a decent opportunity. North Carolina hasn't quite found itself as a team, and just dropped a decision at home to Notre Dame.
But this is a tough matchup for the Cards. They're going to have to score some points, no matter how good their defense is. Las Vegas made North Carolina a 5-point favorite entering the game and the line is still at 3 1/2 the morning of the game.
Given North Carolina's style, think of this as very similar to the Cards' game against Indiana, except that North Carolina is much better on the boards and on defense.
Louisville will look to play its matchup zone against North Carolina, but may wind up playing more man-to-man today.
Here are five quick keys for Louisville remaining unbeaten in Atlantic Coast Conference play:
1). GET BACK.
That one is worth repeating. Nobody changes from defense to offense faster than North Carolina. They fly out with defensive rebounds, hitting outlets who have leaked downcourt, to run North Carolina's sideline break, which Roy Williams loves, and which Dean Smith taught before him. U of L has been a good offensive rebounding team, and will need to do some of that to keep North Carolina out of transition. It'll also have to be careful with penetrating guards like Chris Jones and Terry Rozier. When those guards go in, North Carolina releases players for the opportunity to score on the break easily.
2). GET HARRELL.
Louisville All-American Montrezl Harrell needs to play like one. He played well at Wake Forest in his first ACC visit to his home state, so that bodes well for the Cardinals. He's played like a guy with the weight of the team on his shoulders at time, and he needs to forget that weight and just play. Louisville needs to have him causing havoc to walk out of the Dean Dome with a win. His head-to-head matchup with Brice Johnson will be one of the toughest he has all season.
3). GET PRESSURE.
North Carolina has skilled guards, but they can get sloppy at times. Like the game against Indiana, Louisville will have an opportunity to create its own offense off of defense. North Carolina coach Roy Williams said this is his main concern.
"Harassment is the best word (for Louisville's pressure)," Williams said. "You have to be looking around. His guys are running from behind, they're trying to cut you off to take a charge, they're trying to pick your pocket. . . . To me, the pressure that they put on you defensively is the No. 1 thing about the teams Rick coaches."
4). GET ROZIER GOING.
The sophomore has been outstanding lately. Over the last seven games, he has averaged 20.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals, scoring over 20 points in three. He leads the ACC in steals. They're going to need his scoring against North Carolina, and they're going to need a good defensive game from him against Marcus Paige.
5). GET REBOUNDS.
When Louisville is rebounding, good things happen. North Carolina has had some issues on the boards this season, and that could be an area where the Cards can grab an edge. Kennedy Meeks of North Carolina is a great offensive rebounder, and the Cards will need to pay particular attention to him.
Those of us who have watched Louisville all season know why the Vegas line is what it is. We're doubtful whether the Cards can create enough offense in games like this against good teams. But in ACC play, that's exactly what they're going to have to do. It goes without saying that the Cards can't continue to struggle at the center position. Chinanu Onuaku will head back into the starting lineup today.
My gut feeling is a North Carolina win in a close game, but I'm not writing off the Cardinals. Hot shooting by the guards and a good game from Harrell could swing this their way. Pitino says the team has had some of its best practices over the past 10 days. We'll see if that pays off.
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale)
WHAS-840 (Paul Rogers, Bob Valvano)
Louisville trails 3-9 (2-0 in Louisville, 0-2 in Chapel Hill, 1-7 neutral)
North Carolina 93, U of L 84 in Uncasville, Conn.
Roger Ayers, Sean Hull, Michael Roberts
North Carolina by 3 1/2
CARD FILE (Notes from U of L sports information)
— Louisville's academic performance
in the recently completed fall semester was impressive, with 15 of its 16 men's basketball student-athletes achieving a 3.0 or better grade point average. The Cardinals posted a collective 3.33 GPA for the 2014 Fall Semester, just short of the team record of 3.47 achieved last fall.
— Louisville's 110 victories over the last four years
are the most wins in the nation in that stretch. Louisville is the only school in the nation with three straight 30- win seasons, including a school-record 35 victories by its 2012-13 NCAA Title team.
— Montrezl Harrell is 32 points short
of becoming the 66th career 1,000-point scorer at Louisville. His six double-doubles this season is tied for the ACC lead, including producing 25 points and 13 rebounds at Wake Forest on Jan. 4.
— Louisville has a 46-25 record
in conference games on the road over the last nine seasons (.648), claiming the best road record in both the Big East and AAC during its time in those two leagues.
— While connecting on 65.4 percent of its free throws
on the season, the Cardinals have made 75.2 percent from the line in their last seven games (118-of-157) while making above 70 percent in six games. U of L is 12th nationally in free-throw attempts (396).
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