UNC picks off Louisville, makes it five in a row

North Carolina guard Joel Berry II (2) shoots past the defense of Louisville forward Anas Mahmoud (14) during the first half.
North Carolina guard Joel Berry II (2) shoots past the defense of Louisville forward Anas Mahmoud (14) during the first half. AP

Roy Williams told his players before North Carolina’s game at Louisville on Saturday that he was the only one in the program with a road win over the Cardinals.

Now he has company.

Senior guard Joel Berry scored 23 points to lead No. 14 UNC to a 93-76 road win over Louisville on Saturday night.

It was UNC’s fifth straight win but first at Louisville since the Cardinals joined the ACC before the 2014-15 season.

Williams went into Freedom Hall in 1993 with his Kansas team and beat the Cardinals on their home court.

The Tar Heels (21-7, 10-5 ACC) had been 0-2 at the KFC Yum! Center before Saturday’s win. A hot-shooting start had a lot to do with UNC’s success.

“They came out, obviously, just guns on fire,” Louisville interim coach David Padgett said. “They made eight 3s in the first half, five or six of them were right there in the first three or four minutes of the game.”

Berry, Cam Johnson (12 points) and Theo Pinson (15 points) — with only his third 3-pointer in ACC play — shot Louisville (18-9, 8-6) out of an early zone.

The Cardinals were down 19-6 before they could blink. UNC started 6 of 9 from the 3-point line and led 40-21 before Louisville made a move.

“That was fun,” Johnson said. “It’s always good to come into an opposing arena and get on to them quick. If you can kind of silence them from the jump, it goes a long way.”

Berry had 18 points and half of UNC’s eight 3s in the first half.

“We were hitting shots, guys were making plays,” Berry said. “I don’t know what else to say, other than we were just hitting shots.”

North Carolina guard Joel Berry talks about the increased hustle and enthusiasm of the Tar Heels following their ACC win over Louisville.

The Cards made a 17-5 run to cut UNC’s lead to 45-38 with 1:34 left in the half.

Junior forward Deng Adel, who had missed the previous two games with an ankle injury, came off the bench and scored 13 points in the first half to lead Louisville’s comeback.

The Cardinals trailed 49-40 at the half and could only get as close as seven points in the second half. Adel finished with 20 points and junior forward Ray Spalding added 18 points and 12 rebounds.

Louisville, with a size advantage, held UNC forward Luke Maye to two points in the first half but Maye came alive in the second half and finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds.

Maye’s 3-pointer, falling away, at 3:22 extinguished any hope of a late Louisville rally.

Maye started 1-for-5 from the floor but finished 8 of 18 and had six offensive rebounds.

“Luke was terrible early,” Williams said. “He wasn’t the Luke Maye that we watched all year long but late he was Luke Maye again.”

And since a 5-5 start to ACC play, Carolina has been Carolina again. The Tar Heels reached the 10-win mark in league play for the 12th time in Williams’ 15 seasons.

The Heels are starting to look like the kind of team that can make another deep run in March.

“When they play like that, it’s going to be tough to beat them,” Padgett said.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams talks about the the Tar Heels' big win over Louisville in ACC play.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio