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  Thursday, Dec. 23 9:00pm ET
Aggressive Cards leave Heels in dust

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- The last time Nate Johnson played on national television, he and his Louisville teammates were beaten by 30 points by Kentucky.

Johnson was determined to prove to the country that that effort was nothing more than an aberration, scoring a career-high 31 points as the Cardinals dominated North Carolina 97-80 before another national television audience Thursday night.

Ed Cota
North Carolina's Ed Cota looks for room around Louisville's Rashad Brooks Thursday. Cota was held to six points.
"We totally embarrassed ourselves in the second half against Kentucky and really wanted to come out and redeem ourselves," said Johnson, who hit 13-of-19 shots from the field. "To tell you the truth, tonight was a whole lot more fun."

Marques Maybin added 20 points, Reece Gaines 12 and Quintin Bailey 10 off the bench as Louisville (7-3) forced bigger, slower North Carolina (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) into a season-high 21 turnovers, including seven by usually sure-handed point guard Ed Cota.

Louisville scored 30 points off those miscues and collected 13 steals to North Carolina's two. Although outrebounded 37-31, the Cardinals matched the Tar Heels' second-chance points with 16.

Max Owens led North Carolina (8-4) with 22 points. Joseph Forte added 16 and Jason Capel 13, and Brendan Haywood had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

"How do I account for our sloppiness? I think Louisville is a very good basketball team," North Carolina coach Bill Guthridge said. "They are very quick and very athletic and obviously a lot more aggressive than we were."

The Tar Heels, still smarting following Tuesday's 82-73 loss to Indiana (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) in the Jimmy V Classic, fell victim to that quickness and athleticism from the game's opening moments.

A 7-2 run put Louisville up 29-22 with 8:45 remaining in the first half. The Cardinals then blitzed North Carolina with a 10-0 run over the final 2:30, including two thundering dunks by Maybin on back-to-back turnovers, to take a 50-35 lead at halftime.

Louisville's frenetic pressure -- sorely lacking in the game against Kentucky -- forced 14 first-half turnovers, leading to 21 points. The Cardinals also hung with the Tar Heels on the boards, trailing by a 20-16 margin at halftime but scoring 11 second-chance points to North Carolina's four while not committing a turnover.

"That was the best first half we've played all season," Louisville coach Denny Crum said. "I can't remember a half we've ever played without committing a turnover.

"I told the kids that we could beat this team but we had to give 40 minutes of maximum effort, something we didn't do against Kentucky. The guys played as hard as they could and they deserved this one."

Leading 63-51 midway through the second half, a Johnson 3-pointer capped an 11-4 run, giving the Cardinals a 19-point lead with 9:15 remaining. The Tar Heels cut the margin to 11 with 3:45 to play but would get no closer.

"We knew these guys were big and did not want to run up and down the floor with us," said Johnson, who hit four of eight 3-pointers. "We came out in the second half and kept up the intensity and tried to keep pushing the ball up the floor. You could tell they were tired."


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 Quintin Bailey takes it to the hole for Louisville.
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 Brendan Haywood rips the rim for UNC.
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