Harrell Brings Cardinals Back from 18 Down to Beat North Carolina

A little more than four years ago, the Marquette Golden Eagles came the KFC Yum Center and dominated the Louisville Cardinals for almost the entire game, leading by 18 with 5:36 remaining.  The Cardinals stormed back to win 71 – 70 in what is now known as the “Miracle on Main”.

U of L logoThe No. 13 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels came into the Yum Center and controlled its game against the No. 10 ranked Cardinals, leading by 18 points with 17:26 remaining.  Just as U of L did against Marquette four years earlier, they stormed back to win 78 – 68.

It helped that U of L’s Montrezl Harrell played at an elite level against a strong North Carolina frontline. Harrell has caught some criticism this season for spending too much time outside of the paint, at times relying too much on a jump shot that has not fallen consistently this season.  Harrell showed what he could do when getting the ball down low, leading the Cardinals with 22 points and 15 rebounds.

Rick Pitino has been wanting Harrell to become a better rebounder.  This could be seen as surprising since he is the team’s leading rebounder at 8.9 per game.  When asked about Harrell’s inspired play and rebounding Pitino said, “Yeah, he was possessed, he was disappointed the last time we played North Carolina and I told him, `Tre, I am just going to tell you it’s just a matter of you bending your knees, they are not keeping you off the boards.’  It’s when if you just stand up, you are an easy target to block-out. So he was possessed, he played a lot of minutes, he was possessed, but it doesn’t surprise me.”

In Louisville’s 72 – 71 loss three weeks ago in Chapel Hill they were outrebounded by 10 overall and 8 on the offensive end.  They vowed not to lose the battle this time, outrebounding UNC 46 – 44 overall and 22 – 13 on the offensive end.  Harrell had eight offensive rebounds by himself.

Terry Rozier struggled shooting the ball, making only 6 of his 20 field goal attempts, but still scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.  His defense along with the help of backcourt mate Chris Jones, made it difficult for UNC All-American guard, Marcus Paige, to get going.  Paige scored 15 points on 5 of 12 shooting and committed 5 turnovers.

Louisville had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation when Harrell missed a three point attempt from the top of the key.  Pitino jokingly or maybe not jokingly said this of Harrell’s three attempt, “I actually thought it was good. I really did.  But there is a blessing in every miss because if he makes that, we go to Miami and he attempts eight threes.”

The Cardinals then dominated the overtime session outscoring the Tar Heels 18 – 8.  Wayne Blackshear made perhaps the most important shot of the game in overtime.  He was scoreless going into overtime and this just seemed like it would not be his game, but with Cardinals only leading by two with 2:17 remaining, Blackshear took a pass from Chris Jones and nailed a three to put the Cardinals ahead by five and send the crowd of 22,418 into a massive eruption.

Louisville improved to 18 – 3 overall and 5 – 2 in the ACC.  They will head into Miami to take on the Hurricanes in an important ACC matchup on Tuesday.

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