Davis scores 21 points as No. 4 North Carolina beats Louisville for 7th straight win

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – RJ Davis scored 21 points and No. 4 North Carolina beat Louisville 86-70 for its seventh straight victory Wednesday night, the Tar Heels’ longest winning streak in five seasons.

Armando Bacot had 19 points, former Louisville player Jae’Lyn Withers set season highs with 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, and Cormac Ryan scored 14 for North Carolina (14-3, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Under third-year coach Hubert Davis, the Tar Heels are off to their best ACC start in eight years.

And they want more. RJ Davis thinks 40 minutes of dominance should be the goal.

“It’s the next step for us to be great,” he said.

Skyy Clark scored 16 points, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield had 15 and reserve Tre White added 12 for Louisville (6-11, 1-5), which has lost five of six. Even shooting 64% in the second half wasn’t enough for the Cardinals.

“I want these guys to know what it feels like to come into a North Carolina and actually win a game,” coach Kenny Payne said.

RJ Davis, who also had six assists, and Ryan both made four 3-pointers, putting the Tar Heels on their way to winning five consecutive ACC games by double-digit margins for the first time in 16 years.

But there was an uncomfortable stir in the crowd when Louisville scored seven straight points to pull to 53-45. It was 55-50 as the Cardinals hit nine of their first 10 second-half shots from the field.

“We definitely relaxed a little bit and looked up and it was a five-point game,” RJ Davis said.

Withers, in his first season with the Tar Heels, drove for a baseline basket to cap a 7-0 spurt as the lead grew back to 65-52. Then he converted a three-point play on the next possession.

“He was more than pretty good,” Hubert Davis said. “We just don’t win this game without (Withers).”

As disturbed as Hubert Davis was with his team’s defense early in the second half, a positive developed from that.

“I loved how we reacted and we responded,” he said.

North Carolina broke out to leads of 15-4 and 26-9 and was up 46-29 at halftime.

“It’s our preparation and our mindset,” Ryan said. “We understand we can’t take anybody lightly, especially in league play no matter who it is.”

But unlike Saturday’s romp over Syracuse, the Tar Heels had more work to do.

“They wait for you to make mistakes and they burn you,” Payne said.

After losing 22 consecutive true road games, Louisville was trying to win two in a row following last week’s upset at Miami.

BIG PICTURE

Louisville: The Cardinals committed nine first-half turnovers and fell to 0-3 against AP Top 25 opponents this season. … Louisville has four games in a row with at least eight 3-pointers, but still has the fewest (105) among ACC teams.

North Carolina: Carrying their highest ranking since holding the No. 1 spot in November 2022, the Tar Heels stayed alone in first place in the ACC. They improved to 8-0 at home this season.

UP NEXT

Louisville: Saturday at Wake Forest

North Carolina: Saturday at Boston College.

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