UNCASVILLE, Conn.– The No. 24 North Carolina Tar Heels snapped the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals’ 21-game winning streak 93-84 to claim the Hall of Fame Tipoff title and improve to 4-1 on the young season.
Marcus Paige scored a career high 32 points and the Tar Heels played with fantastic energy to withstand Russ Smith’s 36 points for Louisville and get a statement win without the services of PJ Hairston or Leslie McDonald. No. 3 Louisville fell to 5-1 on the season.
The scoring started fast and furious for both squads. Nate Britt struck first for UNC, but Louisville went on a roll from three-point land, making three consecutive from outside.
Marcus Paige contributed a beautiful jumper and a timely three-pointer to close within three points at 13-10 with under 16 minutes to play in first half.
The furious pace continued. The teams were shooting a combined 9 for 11 early on in the contest. Cardinal Russ Smith already had totaled 11 points in the game.
The offensive fury continued with Louisville playing quick and filling up the basket. Brice Johnson slammed home a dunk on a break-away opportunity off a turnover to place the score at 23-16 in favor of Louisville with 11:34 remaining in half.
The turnovers were beginning to pile up for the young Tar Heels. But Marcus Paige made a nice move to the basket on a score that drew a foul.
Isaiah Hicks delivered a nice feed to Joel James inside to close the Tar Heels to within 29-25 with 8:17 left in the half. The Tar Heels were playing the best ball they’ve produced all season long. Paige was the leading early scorer with 10 points.
The effort from Carolina was at a different level in this game. Brice Johnson was providing a needed spark in enthusiasm as UNC hung in the game just down five points with under four minutes to go in the opening half of play.
And with seconds to go in the half, Marcus Paige slammed home a three-pointer at the buzzer to know the game up at 44 apiece. It was an excellent half of basketball.
The halftime stats sheet read 17 points for Marcus Paige while Cardinal Russ Smith tossed in 22 points to lead Louisville in scoring. Carolina shot 52 percent from the floor while the Cardinals were shooting at a 41 percent clip.
One burning question remained for the second half: Where was McAdoo? He managed only a single point in the first half and was 0-5 from the field.
The Tar Heels opened up the second half with some fine intensity on the defensive end. Paige made a running bank shot and James finished inside to put Carolina up 52-49 with under 16 minutes left in the game.
In an unexpected twist, it was the Tar Heels who were physically making their presence felt both inside and on the run in the classic breakaway UNC fashion. Meeks dished a nice full-court pass to McAdoo who slammed it in to electrify the crowd at the Mohegan Sun Casino.
Head Coach Roy Williams was especially animated courtside as his Tar Heels claimed a 63-55 lead midway through the second half.
Carolina extended the lead out to 10 points and began to take control of the contest, especially in transition.
Paige sat down with four fouls for the Tar Heels. But the bigger news was Louisville’s star Montrezl Harrell fouled out with 7:29 left in the thrilling encounter.
Jackson Simmons made a beautiful hook shot for Carolina, but the Louisville press was amping up the pressure on the young Tar Heels as the clock was winding down. The score stood at 84-73 with just under four minutes remaining in the game.
Paige went down awkwardly on his ankle in a scary moment for the Tar Heels late in the game. but he got up and walked to the bench on his own accord to the relief of the Carolina fans.
Ultimately, Carolina held on with the aid of a career high 32 points from Paige to beat Louisville 93-84 to win the Hall of Fame Tipoff championship