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BYU foils early-season top-10 showdown

So much for the dream matchup at the Las Vegas Invitational.

The plans for an early-season showdown between two top-10 teams vanished in the flick of Jonathan Tavernari’s wrist Friday as the former Bishop Gorman High School sharpshooter led Brigham Young past No. 6 Louisville 78-76 in front of an announced crowd of 4,590 at the Orleans Arena.

The last time BYU defeated such a highly ranked opponent was Dec. 21, 1965, when the Cougars beat second-ranked St. Joseph’s.

Tavernari, a 6-foot-6-inch sophomore forward, scored a career-high 29 points as the Cougars (5-0) earned a date at 7:30 p.m. today against No. 1 North Carolina. The Tar Heels took care of business with a 99-82 win over Old Dominion.

It will be BYU’s first game against the nation’s top-ranked team since 1992, when it lost to Duke.

“I felt we had great energy out there,” Tavernari said. “It wasn’t just me. It was a team effort.”

The Cougars are a veteran team and they were well prepared for a Louisville squad that is depleted by injuries and looked a little tired.

“We knew they were shorthanded, so we wanted to push it and attack the basket,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “We had to handle their pressure and we had to be able to execute our offense without turning it over.”

By being patient, BYU not only got open shots inside and out, the Cougars also minimized their miscues. BYU had just 10 turnovers.

The Cougars survived the first half to lead 41-37, even though Louisville shot 70 percent from the floor.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where you shoot 70 percent and you’re down,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said after his team fell to 3-1. The Cardinals routed UNLV 68-48 at the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday.

“But give BYU credit,” Pitino said. “They made shots.”

The Cougars also have experience and depth. Rose used nine players, and the Cardinals — who are without David Padgett and Juan Palacios, both of whom have knee injuries — couldn’t muster the necessary energy to overtake BYU.

“Right now, we’re a depleted basketball team,” Pitino said. “We’re running out of gas too much.”

North Carolina (4-0), meanwhile, received an early scare as Old Dominion led by six points in the first half before the Tar Heels surged to a 43-39 halftime lead.

The Tar Heels flexed their muscles in the second half, putting away Old Dominion (3-2) with a 17-5 run fueled by Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough. Hansbrough scored 27 points and Lawson 23.

South Carolina State 81, Iona 76 — The Bulldogs (1-4) survived a 20-turnover performance by forcing the Gaels (0-5) into 25 miscues.

Hartford 73, Jackson State 57 — The Hawks (2-4) got 15 points from Rich Baker and 14 from Warren McLendon to defeat Jackson State (0-5).

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2913.

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