By Peter Woodburn
The No. 24 North Carolina Tar Heels are the Hall of Fame Tip-Off champions after upsetting No. 3 Louisville, 93-84, on Sunday.
In the battle of career performances, sophomore Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige got the best of senior Cardinals guard Russ Smith. Paige had a career-high 32 points, and possibly could’ve added more if he didn’t pick up his fourth foul with eight minutes left in the game.
Paige and Smith were the story of the game as each player paced his respective team to a 44-44 tie at half. Smith scored half of the team’s first-half points with 22, finishing with a career-high 36 points. Paige had 17 points at half and led the UNC charge as the team shot 51.7 percent in the first half.
The Tar Heels opened it up in the second half, taking advantage of uncharacteristic lapses in transition defense from the Cardinals to score multiple uncontested fast breaks. The Tar Heels overcame some foul trouble with big contributions from the role players. Freshman forward Kennedy Meeks scored 13 points and sophomore forward Brice Johnson added 13 points.
The Cardinals offense fell flat in the second half. Smith was stellar all game, but Louisville struggled to find offense anywhere else. Montrezl Harrell fouled out with eight minutes left in the game, and the frontcourt just couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Smith and Chris Jones combined for 54 of Louisville’s 84 points.
North Carolina (4-1) resumes play on Dec. 1 against UAB on the road. Louisville (5-1) hosts Southern Miss on Friday.