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Off the cuff: That game at home against Louisville really should have been over after Carolina went up 46-26 with a minute left in the first half.

You have to give credit to Louisville for hitting shots, some open and some contested. While the Cardinals were going eight of nine to start the second half, Carolina was just two of eight.

When you win seven games in a row and moving up to No. 4 in the country, you might think you are hitting your stride. But - and this is a good thing - the Tar Heels have had something to work on after each win.

Coach Davis was not happy with the defense, especially during the run where Louisville cut it to five.

But the Heels put it back together defensively and hit some shots of their own to wrap it up. The Tar Heels outrebounded the Cardinals 40-28 and held a 13-7 edge in points off turnovers. Carolina also scored 18 points from the free throw line compared to just six for Louisville.

Concerning are stretches of four and five minues at a time when the Tar Heels fail to score a basket and sometimes fail to score at all.

Carolina still have room to shoot for a complete game from start to finish.

Carolina 86, Louisville 70
Tar Heels shoot down Louisville

(Photo by UNC Sports Information)

North Carolina hit 10 threes and Jae'Lyn Withers, a Louisville transfer, had his best game as a Tar Heel, scoring 15 points and hauling in 10 rebounds as UNC beat Louisville 86-80 in Chapel Hill. (1/17)

"He was huge for us," UNC coach Hubert Davis said of Withers. "It's always tough to play against a former team but we don't win this game without J Wit. He was our MVP of the game. Terrific on both ends. He came off the bench and gave us a spark."

In the first half, Cormac Ryan, who finished with 14 points, hit four three pointers and the Heels came up with seven steals to take a commanding 46-29 lead at the half.

The Cardinals, however, came back early in the second half by hitting eight of their first nine shots and cutting the lead to 55-50 after a Mike James three with 12:23 to go.

But a 10-2 Carolina run over the next four minutes righted the ship and found the Heels back in control at 65-52. During the run, RJ Davis, who led team with 21 points, hit a pull up three behind a screen and Elliott Cadeau found Withers streaking down the baseline for an up-and-under basket. It never was close again.

"After they cut into the lead, I was really happy and proud of how we reacted and responded," Coach Davis said adding that the defense had been lacking during Louisville's 17-4 run that cut it to five.

Carolina got its first double-figure lead of the game when Davis drilled a three to put the Heels up 15-4 to end an 11-0 run in the first five minutes of the game. The Heels worked the lead up to 20 at 46-26 late in the first half after Withers came up with a steal and drove down court between defenders for a layup.

"My emotions were all over the place," Withers said about playing his former team. "I was anxious at the beginning and it was nerve-wracking at times. But after a while I was joking around and having a good time."

Withers had two or three highlight reel plays in the second half including hitting a crossbody shot down low with two men on him. He also kept his footing and kept dribbling at one point, getting past two defenders who were harassing him, and found an open Davis, who hit a three from the right corner.

Skyy Clark finished with 16 points to lead Louisville, now 6-11 and 1-5 in the ACC.

The Tar Heels, winners of seven in a row, improve to 14-3 overall and 6-0 in the conference with an away game coming up Saturday afternoon at Boston College.

Box score

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