LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Ninth-ranked Louisville was so proficient shooting free throws against No. 17 North Carolina on Sunday that it was easy to forget that the Cardinals are rock bottom in the Atlantic Coast Conference in that category.
Cardinals freshman forward Mariya Moore hasn’t had those issues at the line, and her accuracy set an example that teammates successfully followed in rallying the past the Tar Heels.
Moore scored a career-high 28 points, including 13 during Louisville’s second-half comeback that overcame North Carolina 75-66. She made 11 of 12 free throws including all six after halftime to lead an impressive performance for the Cardinals. It was the most free throws by a freshman in program history.
Averaging just 63 percent from the line coming in, Louisville made 26 of 30 (87 percent) for its most productive day since sinking 28 against Providence on Jan. 31, 2009. Then again, North Carolina’s foul problems provided them plenty of opportunities and Louisville finally took advantage.
“I take pride in my free throw shooting, so whenever I miss one or two, I’m so upset because I’m trying not to miss any,” said Moore, whose 76 percent average leads the Cardinals. “I was a little upset when I missed that one (in the first half), but I had to focus on the game.”
Louisville’s second-half concentration was definitely better after it committed 14 turnovers in the first and generally looked out of sorts. The Cardinals (22-3, 10-2 ACC) turned it over just seven times after halftime, helping them wipe out a nine-point deficit and eventually get past the Tar Heels (20-6, 7-5).
Trailing 45-36 early in the second half, the Cardinals took advantage of the Tar Heels’ foul trouble to forge several ties. They finally led 63-62 with 4:11 left on Sherrone Vails’ free throw in place temporarily-injured Myisha Hines-Allen, part of a parade to the line resulting 16 of 18 attempts made in the second half.
Emmonie Henderson made a short jumper and Moore added a short basket for a five-point lead that offset Stephanie Mavunga’s jumper. Sara Hammond sank a turnaround with 54 seconds left before Jude Schimmel, Moore and Bria Smith each made two free throws in the final minute to seal a hard-fought victory.
“We stepped up and made free throws,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “If we don’t knock down free throws, it’s definitely not going to be a 15-4 run (to close the game).”
Henderson added eight points and six rebounds, many of which were crucial in game where Louisville struggled until finding its way midway through the second half. Hines-Allen had 13 points for the Cardinals, who shot 37 percent but outrebounded North Carolina 47-33 and 24-11 in the second half. It was Louisville’s Cardinals’ first win against the Tar Heels in four tries and first on either school’s home floor.
Mavunga had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels but was hurt by fouls to her, starting guard Allisha Gray (14 points before fouling out) and backcourt mate Brittany Roundtree (four).
“Rebounding was a major difference,” Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “But it was the foul line. They scored 26 points at the foul line and we scored 12. … I think we still should have won the game.”
Sunday was the Cardinals’ Play4Kay game honoring late coach and WBCA founder Kate Yow and bringing awareness to women’s cancers. Both teams wore pink socks and Louisville coach Jeff Walz wore a light pink shirt. The V Foundation donated $100,000 to James Graham Brown Cancer Center for research.
“It’s like Disneyland. I’ve never seen so many bars in one place in all my life. I mean, really, that’s not me, but it’s a different world now.” — Hatchell, when asked her impression of Louisville’s downtown KFC Yum! Center.
North Carolina: Jamie Cherry added 14 points for the Tar Heels, who shot 39 percent. … Gray made a first-half layup while also taking one for the team, getting hit in the face as she received the pass.
Louisville: The Cardinals’ 14 first-half turnovers matched their per-game average, but they only made seven after halftime. … Shawnta’ Dyer left the game briefly in the second half with a left ankle injury but finished with a team-high nine rebounds and five points. … Smith and Hammond also scored eight points.
North Carolina: Hosts Wake Forest on Thursday.
Louisville: Visits Virginia Tech on Thursday.