Berry’s late FTs cap UNC’s game-winning run

Trailing 66-60, North Carolina held homestanding Notre Dame without a field goal for nearly six minutes. But it took a pair of free throws by Joel Berry with seconds left to lift the Tar Heels to a key 69-68 victory. (1/13) Playing without top scorers Bonzie Colson and Matt Ferrell, the Irish almost pulled it out at the end but a follow shot at the buzzer by T.J. Gibbs fell off the rim. “We did a decent job defensively the last five or six minutes,” said UNC coach Roy Williams who said he possibly felt the luckiest he’s ever felt. […]

Trailing 66-60, North Carolina held homestanding Notre Dame without a field goal for nearly six minutes. But it took a pair of free throws by Joel Berry with seconds left to lift the Tar Heels to a key 69-68 victory. (1/13)

Playing without top scorers Bonzie Colson and Matt Ferrell, the Irish almost pulled it out at the end but a follow shot at the buzzer by T.J. Gibbs fell off the rim.

“We did a decent job defensively the last five or six minutes,” said UNC coach Roy Williams who said he possibly felt the luckiest he’s ever felt. “At the end, we did a good job defensively on his original shot but we didn’t box him out and he got another shot.”

Notre Dame players and fans immediately seemed deflated and frustrated while Carolina just seemed relieved. Coach Williams said he felt ‘befuddled” and “dumbfounded” that his team came out with the win.

It played out like an ACC Tournament game as each possession seemed to mean a lot as there were 23 lead changes and nine ties during the game.

Despite Coach Williams’ frustration, his Tar Heels did come through in the clutch as they outscored the Irish 9-2 over the last 5:52.

Joel Berry started the run with a driving layup and freshman Garrison Brooks followed that play up with a basket as he cut through the lane for a short push shot to draw the Heels within a bucket at 66-64 with 5:12 left.

Neither team could score over the next two minutes but UNC’s Luke Maye got loose for an uncontested dunk on a set play to tie the score at 66 with 2:05 to go.

With 1:32 left, Maye hit one of two free throws – the first missing everything – to put Carolina back up 67-66.

The Tar Heels had a chance to extend the lead when Theo Pinson drew a charge on Gibbs with 1:05 left. But with the shot clock running down, Johnson missed badly from the baseline and Kenny Williams fouled out trying to get the rebound.

Gibbs subsequently hit both ends of a one-and-one to give the Irish the lead at 68-67 with just 37 seconds left.

Berry lost the handle on the ball and was tied up for a jump ball, possession Carolina, with 11 seconds left but only four seconds left on the shot clock. Berry inbounded the ball to Sterling Manley who had to take a wild, off-balanced shot that Berry caught and put up in one motion.

He hit the rim with the ball as he was fouled by Gibbs.

With seven seconds left, Berry calmly hit two free throws for the lead, which held up.

Maye led the Heels with 18 points, followed by Berry who scored 15. Pinson, who headlined a key 11-2 run midway through the second half with seven of those points, finished the game with 13 points.

Carolina improves to 14-4 overall and 3-2 in the ACC while Notre Dame falls to 13-5 and 3-2 in the conference.

For a box score and more game analysis, please click here.

Defense was key for North Carolina down the stretch. (UNC Sports Information Photo.)

Defense was key for North Carolina down the stretch. (UNC Sports Information Photo.)