North Carolina led by 15 in the first half and by nine at the half but faltered in the second half as Notre Dame scored on turnovers and hit a slew of free throws to beat the No. 2 Tar Heels 80-76.
The Irish scored 19 points off 13 Tar Heel turnovers while Carolina didn’t capitalize on the mere two Notre Dame turnovers. At one point in the second half, Notre Dame hit 20 straight free throws to erase a Tar Heel lead and then hold off the visitors.
The Irish got to the line 38 times, hitting 31 of them, while the Tar Heels shot just 21 free throws, hitting 16. UNC coach Roy Williams didn’t blame the officiating, he blamed the fact that his players weren’t getting into position and were reaching out to foul.
It was the first time that the Heels have lost back-to-back games. Coach Williams said the Heels aren’t going pack it in after a couple of losses but “right now I’m extremely frustrated.”
He said he didn’t coach well and that his team didn’t put forth the effort and the intensity that Notre Dame did. In fact, the Irish scored 10 more points off offensive rebounds than did the Tar Heels – usually a UNC strength. “We have to compete when it’s tough, not just when it’s easy,” he said.
Marcus Paige broke out of a shooting slump as hit five of eight threes and ended with a game-high 21 points. A long three with 8:08 left in the first half gave Carolina a commanding 26-14 lead. He hit another less than five minutes later and Joel Berry folloed it with a three of his own to give the Heels a 37-22 lead.
An 8-2 Notre Dame run over the last two minutes of the first half cut the margin to nine at 39-30 at the break.
An 18-9 run over the first eight minutes of the second half tied the score for the Irish at 48-all. It went back and forth over the next five minutes but, with Notre Dame up 65-64, UNC’s Justin Jackson missed an open layup and the Tar Heels never led or tied again.
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