Would you call that a second wind, or what?
With five minutes left, the Fighting Irish seemed to have the Tar Heels right where they wanted them. It was a one-or-two possession game, and the Carolina players looked tired while trying to finish off their third opponent in five days.
Notre Dame is a good team, well-coached with smart kids. They don’t have real stars, with Bonzie Colson still benched by an injury. But they hung in there for 35 minutes, making big baskets and long three-pointers to keep the score close.
Twice, they slipped a man to the basket off the high post for a dunk, and it looked like UNC’s defensive lapse was more fatigue than anything else. Then, even before the under-four time out, something happened to this team that you can now call special.
Whether it was a second wind or just dad-gum determination to stick it to the ACC schedule-makers and ESPN for giving the Tar Heels three brutal games in a five-day period, something changed on the court. The Tar Heels haven’t seen a card this grueling since February of 1991 — 27 years ago — when the Gulf War forced postponement of the State home game.
Luke Maye, who looked deservedly pooped after resembling a long-distance runner in Raleigh on Saturday, assisted on two baskets that began a 13-0 run to put the “W” away. Carolina had four players in double figures, and Maye wasn’t one of them. As Matt Damon said in Good Will Hunting, “How do you like those apples?”
Joel Berry had his 22nd 20-point college game; Kenny Williams had his fourth straight in double figures and is 14 of 25 from the arc, Cam Johnson had his sixth straight in double digits. The redoubtable part-time point guard, Theo Pinson, had five assists and led the team for the 17th time this season and the 38th time in his career.
When Maye is blending in and the rest of the cast can completely blow Notre Dame away down the stretch, that’s what you call a T-E-A-M, yeah, team! What was looking like 8-6, 7-7 or even 6-8 in the ACC is now 9-5 and alone in fourth place, which if that holds up means a double-bye in the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn and a projected No. 3 or 4 seed in the Big Dance.
Woody Durham coined the phrase, but it is now as appropriate as ever. How about them Heels!