Chapel Hill, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Marcus Paige's layup with 8.5 seconds left lifted the 18th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels over the fifth-ranked Louisville Cardinals, 72-71, on Saturday.
Brice Johnson made a short jumper with 38.1 seconds remaining to give North Carolina a 70-69 edge, but Louisville's Terry Rozier responded with a baseline jumper at the other end.
Paige then drove to the hoop and made a layup high off the glass to put the Tar Heels back in front. Wayne Blackshear missed a 3-point attempt from the corner and Rozier's putback layup attempt was off the mark as time expired.
"Today we tried to run a set play and then break into freelance at the end of that," said North Carolina coach Roy Williams. "We did want to get Marcus the ball coming to the top of the key and see what happens after. We had a screen for a guy to go to the basket and a couple other things."
Kennedy Meeks had 13 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks for the Tar Heels (12-4, 2-1 ACC), who bounced back from a 71-70 loss to Notre Dame on Monday. Johnson tallied 11 points and 11 boards.
J.P. Tokoto and Paige each scored 10 points for North Carolina, which trailed by 13 with 8:43 to play.
Rozier finished with 25 points for the Cardinals (14-2, 2-1), who had a three- game winning streak snapped. Chris Jones added 19 points.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino fell to 0-6 all-time against North Carolina, with three games coming while he was coaching Kentucky.
"We're playing very good basketball," said Pitino. "I'm excited, but we're hurting very much right now. It stings as much as any game I've coached. Our players are very hurt by it, but that's the ACC. There will be a lot of games like this. A lot of great teams in the ACC. We'll move on from there."
Trailing 63-50, Meeks made two free throws and Joel Berry II connected from beyond the arc to start North Carolina's comeback. After Blackshear made a jumper, Paige hit a 3-pointer to make it a seven-point contest.
Rozier responded with two free throws, but the Tar Heels ended the game on a 14-4 surge. Tokoto's tip-in pulled North Carolina within 69-68 with 2:09 left. Johnson was blocked by Montrezl Harrell on his team's next trip down the court.
Blackshear missed a 3-pointer for Louisville and Mangok Mathiang lost control of the ball after pulling down the offensive rebound. Johnson followed his jumper from in close to give North Carolina a 70-69 lead.
The score was 34-34 following a first half that featured five lead changes and five ties.
Trailing 38-36, the Cardinals used a 13-2 spurt to build a nine-point advantage. The score was 63-50 following Jones' jumper and a Blackshear 3- pointer.
North Carolina improved to 10-3 all-time against Louisville ... Harrell had nine points ... The Tar Heels had 17 offensive rebounds, compared to nine for the Cardinals.