CHAPEL HILL, N.C (AP) — Dana Evans scored 22 points to help fifth-ranked Louisville beat North Carolina 74-67 on Sunday to remain unbeaten in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Jazmine Jones added 19 points for the Cardinals (18-1, 7-0 ACC), who led by double figures by midway through the first quarter and by 20 shortly before halftime. The Cardinals maintained a double-figure edge until the Tar Heels made a last push to get back in it, then had to hold on as UNC got within 71-67 on Taylor Koenen’s contested stepback 3-pointer with 1:22 left.
The Tar Heels had a chance to make it a one-possession game, but Madinah Muhammad missed a 3 with 33 seconds left after a turnover. That ultimately would prove to be UNC’s best chance, with Evans hitting two key free throws with 22 seconds left to help keep the Cardinals in control.
Koenen and Muhammad each scored 17 points for the Tar Heels (13-5, 4-3), who shot 46% but never fully recovered from a disastrous first-half performance filled with turnovers.
Louisville appeared headed for an easy win after shooting 59% in the first half while giving the Tar Heels problems by extending their defensive pressure. UNC also helped the Cardinals build quick momentum with an uncharacteristic array of 12 turnovers, leading to 16 points for the Cardinals.
The Tar Heels had taken down a top-10 opponent less than two weeks ago by beating rival North Carolina State to give new coach Courtney Banghart her first marquee win here. They rallied from a double-figure deficit in that one, but couldn’t quite pull off another big comeback at home.
Louisville: The Cardinals arrived with a resume that includes a marquee win against then-No. 1 Oregon and no losses since falling at Ohio State on Dec. 5. There was also a perfect start in league play, and the Cardinals played every bit like the ACC’s highest-ranked team in the AP Top 25 women’s poll. Louisville improved to 36-3 in league games and 31-3 in true road games over the past three seasons.
UNC: The Tar Heels were off to their best ACC start since the 2014-15 season, but they didn’t give themselves much of a chance early with so many turnovers — some forced by Louisville’s defense and others simply unforced mistakes by sailing passes straight out of bounds. UNC surpassed its league-low season average of 11.4 per game in that opening half and had more turnovers (12) than made baskets (11). They spent the rest of the afternoon trying to dig out from that hole, though they made it interesting at the end.
Louisville: The Cardinals host Virginia on Thursday.
UNC: The Tar Heels visit Georgia Tech on Thursday.
More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/Womenscollegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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