Tar Heels Snag Fifth Straight Win, Slide By Fighting Irish 73-61
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With the loss, the Fighting Irish fell to 12-12 on the year and 3-8 in conference action.
After a somewhat sluggish start, the Tar Heels got things rolling late in the first half, finishing on a 17-4 run and never relinquishing control of the contest from there.
Lethal in transition, Carolina converted on numerous fast break opportunities, but it was the intensity on the defensive side of the floor that really set the tone at the Purcell Pavilion.
It was balanced scoring for the Tar Heels with Marcus Paige, J.P. Tokoto, Brice Johnson and James Michael McAdoo all in double figures.
UNC Head Coach Roy Williams says he was excited about the important road ACC victory.
“We feel great. There’s no question about that. We survived their early start where they made their first four threes, and then after that we were fortunate they missed a bunch of them. I thought our team grew some today,” Coach Williams says.
***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame press conference***
Garrick Sherman led the way for the Irish with 17 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the determined Tar Heels on this afternoon.
Sherman got off to a quick start with some physical play inside and some deft touch off the glass as the Irish claimed the 6-2 lead with 16:50 to play in the half.
The 9-0 Notre Dame run ignited the crowd in Purcell Pavilion and staked the home team out to the 9-2 advantage.
Poor shooting was dooming Carolina’s efforts early, but Tokoto halted the cold spell to get UNC’s second basket of the contest.
Eric Atkins popped a three-pointer to extend the lead out to 13-4 with 13:20 on the first half clock. Paige responded with a floater that found the nets on the other end.
It was six points for Tokoto as he emerged as the scoring threat for the Tar Heels to keep UNC in the game, trailing 13-8 with 11:45 left in the half.
Paige nailed a beautiful jumper to close the gap to a mere three points at 13-10. But the Irish continued to rain in deep shots from behind the arc to spurt back out to the 19-10 lead with 8:10 to play.
Missed layups were beginning to pile up for Carolina, but an electric dunk by Brice Johnson placed the score at 19-15 in favor of the Irish with 7:02 on the first half clock. Somehow, the Tar Heels were staying with the Irish despite shooting just 35 percent in the face of Notre Dame’s 54 percent clip.
Sherman did work on Meeks to get to rim and dish in a basket to give Notre Dame the 21-18 advantage with 5:10 remaining in the opening half.
The Irish held the 23-18 lead when a timeout was called with under three minutes left on the first half clock. UNC was taking questionable shots. Head Coach Roy Williams was livid over court side.
Paige slid in a gutty layup around a couple Notre Dame defenders and then followed that up with a timely three-pointer. McAdoo added in a forceful jam to give the Tar Heels their first lead of the game at 25-23 with under two minutes to play in the half.
At the half, Carolina had worked out to 27-23 lead. UNC finished the first half on a 17-4 run.
The Tar Heels held the 21-15 edge in rebounding and was benefiting from Irish turnovers. Paige and Tokoto each scored 9 points while Notre Dame’s Sherman tossed in six points.
Carolina got off to a strong second half start with a hustle play and a heave by McAdoo to Leslie McDonald who finished the fast break opportunity. UNC was leading 29-25 with 18:16 remaining in the game.
Meeks scored on an effort-filled play to stake the Tar Heels out to a 33-25 advantage with 16:48 to play.
The Tar Heel defensive intensity was resulting in steals, one of which led to a breakaway dunk for McAdoo. Carolina led 37-28 with 15:40 remaining in the game.
McDonald splashed in a three-pointer to extend the UNC lead out to 12 points. McAdoo jammed one home in the paint, and the Tar Heel offense was rolling midway through the second half.
Johnson flew to the rim and with 13:28 to play, Carolina held the 44-30 advantage over the Irish.
A great put-back effort from McAdoo staked Carolina out to a 50-37 lead with 10:07 remaining in the game.
The offensive explosion continued with a couple more Paige conversions. UNC was in full control of the contest with the 57-41 advantage with 7:20 to play.
Notre Dame closed the margin down to eight points, but Carolina staved off the surge to push the margin back out to double digits thanks to a pair of promising McAdoo free throw makes with just under four minutes remaining in the contest.
Carolina held on for the victory, a perfect tune-up for the Duke game looming Wednesday.
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