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North Carolina looks to tighten up defensively vs. Louisville

Jan 7, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA;  North Carolina Tar Heels guard Caleb Love (2) dribbles the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the second half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina has had its share of missteps this season. The Tar Heels can’t afford one this weekend.

North Carolina has a road assignment against Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Tar Heels (11-6, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) scored a season-low point total in Tuesday night’s 65-58 loss at No. 13 Virginia. But the team’s defense has the attention of coach Hubert Davis.

“Got to get stops. Got to get stops,” Davis said.

The Tar Heels need to ring up victories, so even with a short-handed lineup there’s no time to look for excuses.

“I just don’t like to lose,” Davis said.

Louisville (2-15, 0-6) has lost six games in a row. The Cardinals are the only ACC team without a league victory.

North Carolina was hindered by an injury to Preseason ACC Player of the Year Armando Bacot in the opening two minutes at Virginia. Forward Pete Nance didn’t play at all because of a back injury.

“But it’s an ‘L’ — it’s our sixth loss,” Davis said. “We have enough (personnel) on this stat sheet to have won this game. We didn’t get it done.”

The Tar Heels need to compensate for a couple of potential key absences on a team averaging an ACC-best 80.0 points per game. Bacot has dealt with several ailments this season.

“I just want him to be OK,” Davis said.

The Tar Heels received a boost from freshman forward Jalen Washington, who logged 27 minutes to eclipse his playing time from all of this season. He finished with 13 points.

“Your number is going to be called,” Davis said. “Your responsibility and your job is when it’s called, you need to be ready. … I thought he played fantastic.”

Louisville also lost on the road earlier this week, falling 83-70 to first-place Clemson on Wednesday.

“We’re learning as we go,” Cardinals coach Kenny Payne said. “We’re playing good teams as we’re learning, so it makes it very difficult.”

Louisville has received at least 17 points in three straight games from redshirt freshman Mike James. He’s the first Cardinals freshman to score at that clip in three consecutive games since DeJuan Wheat in 1993-94.

“Just used my physicality to get to the line,” James said.

This is the only scheduled North Carolina-Louisville meeting after the Tar Heels swept two games in 2021-22.

–Field Level Media