Monday, January 15, 2018

No. 20 North Carolina 69, Notre Dame 68: Tar Heels escape an upset in South Bend

Photo Credit: Chantel Shetler

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

SOUTH BEND, Ind.— In an ACC battle which featured 24 lead changes and 12 ties, the No. 20 North Carolina Tar Heels (14-4, 3-2 ACC) managed to avoid being upset on the road by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-5, 3-2 ACC). The Tar Heels’ Joel Berry II sunk two free throws with 7.1 seconds left to seal their 69-68 victory at Purcell Pavilion.

“I feel the luckiest maybe I’ve ever felt in my life at the end of a basketball game,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “It was a frustrating game… Notre Dame played so hard.  I thought they played harder than us; I thought they played smarter than us.”

Notre Dame once again came into the contest without its two best players – Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell. During pregame warmups, Farrell participated fully, but was once again held out of action. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said the goal is to have Farrell starting on Jan. 16 against Louisville.

The teams combined to start 0-of-5 from the field, but then combined to go 6-of-6 into the under-16 media timeout. 

Notre Dame had a stretch through the first half where it went 0-of-11 from the field before Elijah Burns got a layup to end the drought. The Irish got a defensive stop followed by a DJ Harvey bucket to take the lead and Purcell Pavilion almost erupted.

“Look at DJ Harvey— He can get you 8 or 9 rebounds. What a night for him. Did he play 37 minutes,” Brey said. “You feel when you downshift with him, he rebounds a little bit like [Pat] Connaughton did.” Harvey finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds for the Irish, with 4 rebounds coming on the offensive end.

With five minutes remaining in the first half, Luke Maye was 6-of-6 from the field to lead North Carolina, which highlighted an 18-point, 11-rebound night. The rest of the Tar Heels had a combined 2-of-17 shooting.

Cameron Johnson hit a last-second three-pointer to give North Carolina a 40-37 lead heading into the half. Maye led all scorers with 13 points, while adding nine rebounds in the first 20 minutes. 

The action remained a constant back-and-forth battle throughout the second half. The Irish used the three-ball to hang with the Tar Heels whenever North Carolina began to extend a lead.  On the evening, Notre Dame managed to sink ten triples.

TJ Gibbs was called for a foul with 7.1 seconds remaining to send Berry to the line. Berry sunk the game-tying and game-winning free throws and allowed the Tar Heels to go up 69-68.

Gibbs attempted to redeem himself with a shot before the buzzer and missed, but managed to grab his own rebound, but the second shot attempt also rimmed out.  On the evening, Gibbs lead all scorers with 19 points and added a game-high six assists as well. Martinas Geben paced the Irish with nine rebounds, including hauling in seven off of the offensive glass. Notre Dame managed to pull down 20 offensive rebounds in the contest.