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UNC blows big second half lead falling to Louisville 78-68 in OT

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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — The offensive rebounding that has been such a strength of No. 13 North Carolina disappeared after halftime as the Tar Heels lost 78-68 in overtime at No. 10 Louisville on Saturday.

North Carolina (17-5, 7-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) bullied its way to an 18-point lead early in the second-half only to see it evaporate as the Cardinals kept chipping away and finally tied the game on a Montrezl Harrell 3-point play with 8:20 to play.

North Carolina grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and scored 11 points off those misses in the first half. In the second half the Tar Heels had just two offensive rebounds and no second-chance points.

"The second-half was not a very good basketball game on our side," said North Carolina coach Roy Williams. "We get zero points off offensive rebounds in the second half and we are supposedly the best offensive rebounding team in the country."

North Carolina entered Saturday fifth in the nation with 15.57 offensive rebounds per game and sat second in Ken Pomeroy's offensive rebounding percentage (43).

The loss comes three weeks after North Carolina shocked Louisville by rallying from a double-digit deficit. The Cardinals returned the favor as Terry Rozier scored No. 10 Louisville's first six points in overtime and the Cardinals later scored 10 straight to run away with the win late.

Rozier's sweeping layup 43 seconds into overtime gave Louisville (18-3, 6-2) a 62-60 lead, its first since four minutes into the game. Two free throws following a Kennedy Meeks layup again put the Cardinals up and his 15-footer with 2:43 remaining gave Louisville the lead for good. Rozier finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Montrezl Harrell led the Louisville comeback with 14 of his 22 points in the second half and 15 rebounds.

Marcus Paige scored 15 points for North Carolina (17-4, 7-2), one of four Tar Heels in double figures.

North Carolina led 43-25 with 17:51 remaining but Louisville clawed back to single digits by forcing eight turnovers in a six-minute stretch.

"They just competed harder than we did both ends of the floor," Paige said. "They just stepped up to the challenge. They competed harder than us. We thought we had the game."

PHOTO: Louisville's Wayne Blackshear, center, battles North Carolina's Marcus Paige, right, and Justin Jackson for the ball during the first half of their NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Louisville's Wayne Blackshear, center, battles North Carolina's Marcus Paige, right, and Justin Jackson for the ball during the first half of their NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

North Carolina led 59-55 with 7:10 remaining but scored just one point the rest of regulation, going scoreless for the final 3:34. Tied at 60, Harrell hit the back iron on his open-look 3 as the buzzer sounded to send the game to overtime.

J.P. Tokoto added 11 points and 11 rebounds for UNC but committed six of the team's 19 turnovers. Justin Jackson and Nate Britt each scored 10.

North Carolina had a 27-16 rebounding edge and led 36-25 at halftime. They stretched their lead to 18 in scoring the first seven points of the second half.

TIP-INS

Louisville: The comeback gave Rick Pitino his first win in seven tries against North Carolina. Three of his previous six tries came while at Kentucky, including a 1995 loss that sent the Tar Heels to the Final Four.

North Carolina: The loss ends a six-game winning streak that started three weeks ago against Louisville. Paige's layup with 8.5 seconds left capped a 13-point comeback victory that saw the Tar Heels lead for a total of 85 seconds in the second half.

CAROLINA FOUL TROUBLE

UNC committed 33 personal fouls compared to Louisville's 16. Three players — Brice Johnson, Nate Britt and Isaiah Hicks — fouled out with three others picking up four fouls. We just couldn't keep them off the foul line," Paige said of Louisville's 44-20 free throw edge.

UP NEXT

Louisville heads to No. 23 Miami on Tuesday.

North Carolina hosts No. 2 Virginia on Monday.

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Freelance writer Ed Peak contributed to this report.

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