Louisville started the season unranked, then won 17 of its first 21 games. And in the latest Associated Press poll, the Cardinals are ranked 19th.
So that’s good, all things considered.
And yet it didn’t feel good — mostly because the Cardinals entered February still looking for their first signature win. They’d beaten Pittsburgh and Florida State at home, as well as Georgia Tech and North Carolina State on the road. But they hadn’t topped a school currently ranked inside of the top 35 at KenPom, the top 30 of the RPI, or the Top 25 of either the Associated Press poll or Coaches poll. And they were coming off of Saturday afternoon’s humbling and humiliating 63-47 loss at home to Virginia.
And that’s why things didn’t seem or feel good.
But that all changed Monday night.
Because the 19th-ranked Cardinals got their first signature win via a 71-65 victory over No. 2 North Carolina that snapped the Tar Heels’ 12-game winning streak.
“Coach [Rick Pitino] really challenged us after our last home game,” said Louisville’s Damion Lee, who finished with 24 points. “We definitely wanted to rebound well after that.”
And they did.
Mostly by making things difficult for UNC’s offense.
The Tar Heels were held to 34.5 percent shooting, including 17.6 percent from beyond the arc. Marcus Paige missed 10 of the 13 shots he attempted. Joel Berry missed nine of the 10 shots he attempted. Theo Pinson missed all three shots he attempted. So on and so forth.
“It was a tough night for the boys in blue,” said UNC coach Roy Williams.
North Carolina’s next game is Saturday at Notre Dame.
Louisville gets Boston College next.
But the big story from this night is that nobody will ever ask again for the name of the one good team Louisville has actually beaten. Because that question has been answered.
It’s North Carolina.
Louisville has beaten North Carolina.