The No. 19 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 22-7 overall and 12-4 in the ACC, will be aiming to make it twelve straight victories Monday night in the Smith Center when it takes on struggling Notre Dame, 15-15 on the season and 6-11 in the conference.
Head Coach Roy Williams says he credits some of the role players for keeping the Carolina winning streak alive.
“They really have bought in to the playing harder and the ‘sense of urgency’ idea I’ve talked about all year. I think one thing that’s been helpful, and I won’t say a surprise because that acts like you don’t care or don’t think your teammates can do something, but Joel [James] gave us three or four good minutes, Desmond [Hubert] gave us three or four good minutes. Those guys came in and gave us some good minutes,” Coach Williams says.
Some of the Tar Heel players have discussed the late-season fatigue they are feeling. Coach Williams, however, says that’s no excuse for not giving it everything you’ve got every time you step out on the floor.
“If you can’t get fired up 29 times there is something wrong with you. I don’t buy all that junk. Yet everybody says it. I think it’s a bunch of junk. If I get to play 29 games, I’m going to play my ‘blankenty-blank’ off 29 times,” Coach Williams says.
Notre Dame comes into Monday’s matchup off a narrow overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday.
The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with the Fighting Irish 17-4 and won their most recent outing 73-62 at South Bend back on Feb. 8. It will be Notre Dame’s first trip to Chapel Hill since 1993.
Coach Williams says in the special seasons, you have to be able to pull out some games when you aren’t necessarily playing great basketball.
“We’ve won some games early. It hasn’t all been pretty well. You have to understand that sometimes you’re going to play really well and you hope you win those games. Sometimes, you could even lose those. To have a great year, you’ve got to win a lot of games ugly to be honest with you,” Coach Williams says.
Monday will mark the final home games for seniors Leslie McDonald, James Manor, Wade Moody and Denzel Robinson. It is sure to be an emotional night in the SmithCenter.
Coverage on 97.9 FM, WCHL begins at 5:30 p.m. with Countdown to Tipoff.