Diminishing Returns on the Glass

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – No. 13 North Carolina leaned on its rebounding to rally from a 13-point deficit to upset No. 10 Louisville three weeks ago. The Cardinals played the role of copycat on Saturday, dominating the boards late in escaping an 18-point hole.

In the first meeting on Jan. 10, UNC scored 17 points off 17 offensive rebounds in keeping Louisville within striking distance until making a late push with 8:23 to play.

The Tar Heels, who entered the second meeting leading the ACC in rebounding margin and ranked second nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, followed a similar course of action in building an 18-point lead with 17:51 to play. UNC had scored 11 second-chance points off 11 offensive rebounds to that point, while possessing a 29-17 rebounding edge.

Louisville managed to reverse that trend, however, in charging back and ultimately securing a 78-68 overtime victory. The Cardinals, despite being limited to three second-chance points in the first half, scored 23 second-chance points after halftime off 15 offensive rebounds.

The 26 second-chance points were the most scored on UNC this season. The previous high was 17 by N.C. State.

The Tar Heels, on the other hand, lost their ability to score off the offensive glass, securing just two offensive rebounds over the final 22:51 and failing to tally any points.

“We got zero points off offensive rebounds in the second half and we’re supposedly one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country,” UNC head coach Roy Williams told reporters after the game. “They got 17 points off offensive rebounds in the second half. Every time I felt like we’d get a miss, they’d end up getting it and putting it back in.”

Williams highlighted a particular rebound by Louisville guard Terry Rozier in the overtime period. With the Cardinals leading 70-64 with 1:34 to play, forward Montrezl Harrell missed a free throw attempt, and despite Kennedy Meeks having inside position, Rozier managed to come up with the offensive rebound.

“At that point, that shows you something in how much Louisville wanted the basketball,” Williams said.

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino lit into his team at halftime, reiterating which Tar Heels were the best rebounders. He stressed toughness and gang-rebounding, and his Cardinals delivered.

“They were just more aggressive,” junior forward Brice Johnson said. “They didn’t want to be boxed out and they did a great job of boxing out so that we wouldn’t get second-chance points. We didn’t do as good of a job as we did in the first half of boxing them out.”

Harrell led Louisville with 15 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end, while Rozier added 10. Wing J.P. Tokoto pulled down a team-best 11 rebounds for UNC. Meeks and Johnson combined for 14 rebounds, but neither grabbed an offensive board.

“We didn’t do a good job boxing out today at all,” Meeks said. “Coach always preaches that. That’s something we failed to do today.”

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