Thursday, January 11, 2018

Irish look to return to form against a primed Tar Heels squad

Photo Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

When the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-4, 3-1 ACC) return home to Purcell Pavilion on Saturday, (6 p.m., ESPN) to take on the No. 20 North Carolina Tar Heels (13-4, 2-2 ACC), they will be looking to bounce back from a 60-53 road loss to Georgia Tech on Jan. 10.

In the seven-point defeat, the Irish were led by Martinas Geben, who poured in a career-high 16 points and pulled down an additional nine rebounds, while TJ Gibbs and Rex Pflueger both tied their career-highs in assists with seven and six, respectively. 

The Irish are in an adjustment period as they try reform after Bonzie Colson’s fractured foot injury, which will sideline him for the remainder of ACC regular season play sans the senior night game against Pittsburgh on Feb. 28.

With Colson out, sophomore big man John Mooney is trying to make the most of his new opportunities.  Mooney added a career-high 11 points and eight rebounds against Georgia Tech.

As of right now, Matt Farrell will also miss the North Carolina game with a sprained ankle.  Farrell injured the ankle in Notre Dame’s contest against NC State, and has missed the last two games due to injury. Farrell’s consistency in the backcourt has been missed as the Irish have looked for ways to make up for the team-high 5.1 assists per game this season.

The Tar Heels are coming off of a 96-66 blowout victory over Boston College on Jan. 9 as Luke Maye produced a career night with 32 points and 18 rebounds to help snap a two-game skid.

On the season, Maye has averaged 18.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and amassed nine double-doubles. Maye leads all North Carolina players on the season with 18 blocks as well.

Theo Pinson has proven to be straw that stirs the drink for the Tar Heels this season with a team-high 4.3 assists and dished out a team-high five assists in the win over the Eagles.

Barring another weather issue, this edition of the series will be played as scheduled as the Tar Heels defeated the Irish 83-76 at Greensboro Coliseum on Feb. 5 after the game was postponed a day due to a water shortage in the Chapel Hill area.

No. 20 North Carolina at Notre Dame

Tip-off: 6:00 p.m. ET

TV/Online: ESPN/WatchESPN

Commentators: Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and Maria Taylor (sidelines)

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