By this time last season… when Louisville was set to face the Tar Heels, the Cards had just come off an embarrassing loss to Virginia (per usual) but the team was 18-4 and definitely making their statement for a deep tournament run in March. A confident Damion Lee put Louisville on his back and was the leading scorer of the night with 24 points. But while he isn’t suiting up for the Cards tonight (he might be in the building, I’ve seen he’s been working around the program after suffering an ACL injury in December)… and Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson aren’t walking through that door for North Carolina. Louisville can secure the ultimate victory in Chapel Hill Wednesday night.
Louisville won in the first regular season meeting for the two, coming from behind 18 down to win in OT at the KFC Yum! Center but lost to North Carolina in its first ever ACC tournament appearance… and that big win last season when UNC was ranked #2 in the nation, the madness was cut short for a 2016 tournament campaign for the Cards.
Carolina is returning Justin Jackson, their leading scorer from the 2016 match when he went 6-9 from the field and scored 16 points but only 2 rebounds and 1 assist.. He is the Tar Heels’ leading scorer in the 2017 campaign averaging 18.6 PPG. Joel Berry II, now Carolina’s second leading scorer, did not have a good night from the field in that 2016 go at it, 1-10 and 1-5 from behind the arc, he scored 7 points. Yes, Kennedy Meeks is still ‘enrolled’ (ha ha, shameless UNC jab #UNChateday) had a measly 4 points and 6 boards. Today, hes averaging 12.6 PPG and 9.1 RPG. You’re gonna wanna also know about Isaiah Hicks, whose best showing was two conference games in January vs Florida State (22p, 7r) and the following game vs Syracuse (20p, 8r). He can get hot and stay hot for the Tar Heels and Louisville has to avoid that to win in front of the Carolina crowd.
A Louisville team who returns starters, Jaylen Johnson and Quentin Snider, combined for 6 pts, 7 assists, 7 rebounds in last years meeting… Jaylen counted for three of those boards (rolls eyes). Today, Jaylen has been one of the most satisfying players over the course of the season. Captain, Quentin Snider, has become the quiet leader for Louisville and I haven’t even mentioned Louisville’s senior big man, Mangok Mathieng. A then bench of Mahmoud, Spalding, Adel and Mitchell has shuffled into the starting deck of Cards for Louisville… and it is scary if you’re the opposition. That bench last season scored 20 points, had 14 rebounds and only 2 assists. This season, those four guys average a combined 38.3 points, 18 rebounds and 6.4 rebounds.
Enjoy the moment, Cards fans… because they say you never know when and how it can all be taken from you. And this time last year is a true testament of that psyche. It’s gonna be alot of fun. Go Cards… #BEATNORTHCAROLINA!
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