Notre Dame suffers latest close loss to North Carolina
The stars seemed to be aligned for Notre Dame at last. After losing close contests at Duke and Virginia, a struggling North Carolina team was coming to Purcell Pavilion at the right time. This time, the Irish would get the job done and have their signature win of the season, right? Instead, they let the Tar Heels escape with their own 63-59 victory, giving them hope to still make the NCAA Tournament.
Despite the teams combining for only 15 field goals and shooting 25.4% from the field in the first half, the Irish (10-18, 2-15) held an eight-point halftime lead. The Tar Heels (17-11, 9-8) came out of the locker room looking like a new team, successfully executing a full-court press and otherwise frustrating the Irish on offense. That helped them go on a 15-4 run to open the second half, and it looked like they might blow the game open. Instead, the Irish kept it close throughout, and the game wasn’t decided until the clock almost was at zero.
The Irish lost the lead for good on a possession in which they allowed four offensive rebounds before Caleb Love made the go-ahead layup with 3:22 left. It painted the perfect picture of a game in which the Tar Heels held significant advantages in offensive boards (23-8) and second-chance points (23-9).
Even so, the Irish had a last chance when they trailed, 61-58, and JJ Starling was sent to the line for two free throws with 4.8 seconds remaining. Starling made the first and intentionally missed the second, but Love got the rebound and subsequently made two free throws after a foul to ice it.
Love scored 16 points to tie Armando Bacot, who achieved a double-double with 11 rebounds. RJ Davis had 12 points, and Pete Nance completed his own double-double of 11 points and 10 boards. Leaky Black grabbed 11 rebounds of his own. Yes, that’s three Tar Heels who reached double figures in boards, so it’s no surprise the team dominated in that category, 52-33.
Cormac Ryan paced the Irish with 14 points. Trey Wertz scored 13, and Starling brought his scoring total to 10 with his late free throw.
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