Louisville basketball can't overcome North Carolina, controversial foul call in OT loss

Brett Dawson
Louisville Courier Journal

Mike Pegues was proud of the fight. He applauded the effort. 

But after his Louisville basketball team came up short in a 90-83 overtime loss to North Carolina on Tuesday at the KFC Yum Center, the Cardinals coach wished here had been a little less emotion. 

From him.

Pegues called his technical foul late in overtime “inexcusable,” though the fans in the stands might push back on that. At least one of them threw cups of ice on the floor toward an ugly end to a hard-fought game. 

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The Louisville coach was hit with a technical with 17 seconds to play after a foul call on Cardinals center Sydney Curry. Replays showed that North Carolina center Armando Bacot had an arm against Curry’s neck and appeared to discard Curry using it. 

“I’m irate after the Bacot-Syndey scrum that to me looked like a clear foul on Bacot,” Pegues said. “I was completely shocked by that. Nonetheless, I have to learn to temper myself even when things are seemingly (not) something I think it should be. I’m responsible in part for why we lost tonight, because I have to control my temper better, and I apologize to my team and our fan base for getting that tech.”

Pegues said he wasn’t going to blame the officials, but said the Louisville administration was “looking into” both the late foul on Curry and an overtime technical on Jae’Lyn Withers for shoving Bacot after a dust-up between the UNC center and Louisville forward Matt Cross. 

Louisville interim head coach Mike Pegues has a talk with Jarrod West during first half action against North Carolina at the YUM Center. Feb. 1, 2022

That play came with 1:10 to play in overtime and Louisville trailing 84-81. Cross had driven into the North Carolina defense and had his layup blocked by Tar Heels forward Brady Manek. As the teams fought for ball, officials called a jump ball. Alternating possession would have kept the ball with Louisville. 

But the exchange escalated, and Withers was ruled to have shoved Bacot. 

Cross said Withers was trying to break up a scrum — “just like two players on their team” — but officials reviewed the play and called a technical on Withers. Pegues said after the game that he was “frustrated with the call” because Withers is “not a kid that’s just gonna walk into a scrum and start something.” 

“I just feel like in a three-point game that’s a tough call to make,” Pegues said. 

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North Carolina’s Caleb Love made both technical free throws to give his team an 86-81 lead. 

Louisville trailed 86-83 when Cross misfired on a 3-pointer, and Curry was called for the rebounding foul on Bacot with 17 seconds to play. Pegues’ technical foul followed. 

“I couldn’t contain myself,” Pegues said. “I was looking for something to hit. Table was there. Couldn’t control myself.” 

Bacot was called for his fourth foul with 5:47 to play in regulation. He played the final 3:57 of regulation and all five minutes of overtime without picking up a fifth. There were physical plays on which Bacot could have fouled out but didn’t, and the lack of calls in those situations “had a lot to do with why I reacted the way I did.” 

Bacot finished with 19 points and 22 rebounds. 

Love made two more technical foul shots with 17 seconds to play, and Bacot hit 1 of 2 free throws awarded for the personal foul. That put Carolina in front 89-83 and effectively ended the game. 

The wild finish overshadowed a monster effort from Louisville (11-11, 5-7 ACC). Playing its first game since Pegues announced a suspension for leading scorer and rebounder Malik Williams, the Cardinals rallied from 10 points down with 12:35 to play and forced overtime thanks to El Ellis’ steal and layup with 15 seconds to play in regulation. 

Ellis, a first-year junior-college transfer, scored a season-high 25 points, all after halftime. That helped offset Williams’ absent scoring. Cross made up for his rebounding by grabbing a career-high 15 boards. 

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Though the Tar Heels (16-6, 8-3) outscored the Cards 16-9 in overtime — handing U of L its fourth straight loss and second in as many games since Pegues took over in the wake of a separation agreement between U of L and head coach Chris Mack — Pegues lauded Louisville at the end. 

Its two losses since he took over have come to Duke and North Carolina, two of the top three teams in the ACC standings 

“We’ve been through more this week than anybody else in the country, in my opinion,” Pegues said. “To come out and compete against two blue bloods and be right there to win the game says so much about this locker room, this program, the character of this team, our staff.”