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Previewing Louisville

The top two teams in the ACC standings square off on Monday as No. 2 North Carolina travels to the KFC Yum! Center to face No. 16 Louisville. Tip-off is set for 7:01 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.

North Carolina (19-2, 8-0 ACC) vs. Louisville (17-4, 6-2 ACC)
Louisville, Ky. – KFC Yum! Center
Monday, 7:01 p.m.
ESPN (Sean McDonough, Doris Burke, Kaylee Hartung)

Quotables

“It is not going to get an easier because (North) Carolina plays right into our weakness, which is transition defense. So we have got one day to cure some of our ills but with such an inexperienced team, it is going to be difficult to do." – Louisville head coach Rick Pitino following his team’s home loss to Virginia on Saturday

“I'm real happy we're 17-4 and 6-2 because I haven't seen a real good basketball team from these guys this year at the defensive end.” – Pitino

PREGAME NOTES

Season to Date: Louisville enters Monday’s contest with a 17-4 (6-2) record. Despite their impressive record, there are lingering questions about how good this Cardinals squad actually is. Louisville dropped nonconference games to Michigan State and Kentucky, leaving North Florida as arguably its best win outside of ACC play. Since league play started on Jan. 3, the Cardinals have wins over Wake Forest, N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech – five of the six residing in the bottom half of the league standings - and losses to Clemson and Virginia.

Lockdown Defense: Pitino has built his Louisville program on defense, and this season has been no different. For the sixth season in a row, his squad ranks as one of the top defensive teams in the country. The Cardinals lead the ACC and rank sixth nationally in field goal percentage defense (37.7) while forcing 14.7 turnovers per game. Louisville ranks sixth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (90.5) and effective field goal percentage defense (43.0) and 16th in block percentage (14.7), according to kenpom.com.

Transfers Pacing the Offense: Graduate transfer Damion Lee leads the Cardinals in scoring with 16.7 points per game, good for seventh in the ACC, while fellow graduate transfer Trey Lewis is second on the team in scoring with 12.3 points per game. Lee, formerly of Drexel, is shooting 46.4 percent from the floor 36.4 percent from 3-point range. Lewis, formerly of Penn State and most recently Cleveland State, is shooting 42.9 percent from the floor yet 40.0 percent from beyond the arc. Despite those relatively low shooting percentages, Louisville ranks 22nd nationally in field goal percentage (48.5).

Onuaku Back in Action: Sophomore forward Chinanu Onuaku has continued his rapid improvement in ACC play, where he leads the league in rebounding (9.9) and blocked shots (2.3) and ranks second in field goal percentage (61.3). He was limited to 19 minutes against Virginia on Saturday after missing practice time last week due to illness. Pitino said after the game Onuaku “should be fine” for Monday’s game.

Force on the Boards: Louisville leads the ACC and ranks eighth nationally in rebound margin (plus-10.4), thanks primarily to a group effort. Onuaku is the headliner in pulling down 8.5 rebounds per game, but seven different Cardinals are averaging at least three rebounds per game. Louisville has been especially effective on the offensive glass, ranking third nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (42.2), according to kenpom.com.

Stat of Note: Louisville leads the nation in scoring margin (19.1), but is second in ACC play (8.3) behind North Carolina (11.1).

Stat of Note, Take II: The Cardinals are 10-0 this season and 21-0 over the past two seasons when scoring 80 or more points.

Last Meeting: The Tar Heels defeated the Cardinals, 70-60, in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 12, 2015. Brice Johnson led UNC with 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting and Marcus Paige added 13 points and five assists. The Tar Heels held Louisville to 34.9 percent shooting and rallied from a 10-point first-half deficit.

Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with the Cardinals, 11-4. UNC is 4-1 against Louisville during the Roy Williams era. Rick Pitino is 1-7 in his coaching career against UNC.

Projected Starters:
0 Damion Lee (6-6, 210, Sr.) – 16.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg
3 Trey Lewis (6-2, 185, Sr.) - 12.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg
32 Chinanu Onuaku (6-10, 245, So.) - 10.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg
2 Quentin Snider (6-2, 175, So.) - 9.8 ppg, 3.6 apg
10 Jaylen Johnson (6-9, 225, So.) - 5.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg

Top Reserves:
14 Anas Mahmoud (7-0, 210, So.) – 3.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg
22 Deng Adel (6-7, 200, Fr.) – 3.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg
13 Ray Spalding (6-10, 210, Fr.) – 5.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg

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