No. 3 Louisville women withstand 2nd-half rally to edge UNC

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Jazmine Jones tied her career best with 17 points and added a season-best eight rebounds, including a key one in the closing seconds, to help No. 3 Louisville beat North Carolina 73-66 on Thursday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both schools.

Arica Carter added 14 points to for the Cardinals (13-0).

Louisville coach Jeff Walz said Wednesday he wanted his team to rebound better, and they did just that against the Tar Heels. The Cardinals had a 45-30 edge on the boards and used 11 offensive boards in the first half to build a 19-point lead late in the second quarter.

After that, though, it was all Tar Heels (9-6), who nearly pulled off a great comeback.

After scoring just 23 points in the first half, the Tar Heels scored 24 and shot 61.5 percent in the third period. Stephanie Watts’ layup with 38 seconds left in the quarter cut the Louisville lead to 55-47.

“I just think we settled down,” Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “We started scoring, which helped the defense, really.”

Carter, a senior guard let out a sigh of relief after the game knowing the Cardinals faltered after halftime.

“We started off the game really well,” she said. “If we would have done that in the second half, I think I would have said the game went great, but the second half was bad. Our defense was bad. Our rebounding wasn’t as good it was in the first half. We just didn’t play the same.”

North Carolina kept it going in the final period, drawing within two points four different times. The last being 66-64 with 1:24 left after a Janelle Bailey 3-point play. Louisville had three timeouts available and Walz said his staff urged him to use them as the Tar Heels trimmed the lead, but he declined.

“I’m going to make them figure it out,” he said. “Because there’s going to be games where I’m not going to have any to bail them out with, and I thought they did a pretty darn good job.”

Kylee Shook’s layup with a minute left made it a four-point game, and the Tar Heels never drew closer. Carter and Jones made sure of that.

Carter made 3 of 4 free throws in a three-second span and came up with a big steal with 30 second remaining between her trips to the line. Jones, who made 7-of-11 shots, made 1 of 2 free throws after getting an offensive rebound off Asia Durr’s missed free throw with 22 seconds remaining to secure the win.

Bailey and Watts led the Tar Heels with 16 points apiece.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Louisville looked shaky down the stretch, but considering No. 4 Maryland lost at home Monday, the Cardinals should remain in the top three if they can win this weekend.

DESTINEE IMPROVING FOR HEELS

Destinee Walker missed her seventh straight game, and her 10th overall this season, for the Tar Heels as the junior recovers from an unspecified hip injury. However, Hatchell said she hopes the redshirt junior guard can return within the next 10 days.

Her return could be critical for the Tar Heels hopes to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015. She redshirted last season after suffering a knee injury late in the 2016-17 season, but the guard averaged 13.3 points in 53 games over her freshman and sophomore campaigns.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels had a bad first half. In addition to getting dominated on the boards, they made just 1 of 15 shots from beyond the 3-point arc. While they showed resiliency in rallying, they could not complete the comeback as they shot a season-low 33.3 percent.

Louisville: This wasn’t the first time the Cardinals nearly gave away a big lead at home this season, and Walz said part of the reason rests on some players who need to get tougher when things go awry. That could become a problem as the schedule gets tougher. The remaining schedule features seven teams either in the Top 25 or receiving votes, including games against top-ranked Connecticut and No. 2 Notre Dame.

“We have to be able to mature emotionally, and we can, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.

UP NEXT

North Carolina: Hosts Florida State on Sunday.

Louisville: At Duke on Sunday