By R.L. Bynum
After one of Carolina’s ugliest first halves in years, the Tar Heels somehow came alive after halftime and took the first step toward possibly saving their season.
It took UNC less than nine minutes in the second half to match its first-half point total and get back into the game. From there, the Tar Heels did enough to win 63–59 Wednesday night over Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
Carolina (16–11, 9–8 ACC) battled for a win it badly needed by dominating the rebounding battle 52–33 for the Tar Heels’ second-best rebounding margin this season (it was +21 against Georgia Tech).
In the final six seconds, Caleb Love scored four of his 16 points at the free-throw line to put the game away.
“I’ve got to seal the deal,” Love told the Tar Heel Sports Network after the game. “I’ve got to step up, have the balls to make those free throws.”
UNC won despite shooting a season-low 8.7% (2 of 23) from 3-point range. It was the worst performance in program history when the Tar Heels attempt at least 20 3-pointers.
“I thought the first half just wasn’t good enough,” UNC coach Hubert Davis told the THSN. “The energy, the effort, it just wasn’t there in the first half. In the second half, we came out and took the lead just like that because of execution. But, more important, because of our effort and energy.”
Armando Bacot scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half. He added 11 rebounds to put up his 67th career double-double to pass Wake Forest’s Len Chappell for fifth place in ACC history.
RJ Davis added 12 points and eight rebounds and Pete Nance put up his third double-double of the season with 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
“Armando was fantastic posting up,” Coach Davis said. “His ability to draw double teams and create offense for himself and for his teammates [was good]. RJ and Caleb were fantastic. They had moments on both ends of the floor that helped us win.”
Coach Davis told his players after the game that they have to have faith.
“For the last couple of weeks, it’s been hard because we’ve been in that situation before and the ball just hasn’t bounced our way or we hadn’t made the plays on both ends,” he said. “So, that’s something to celebrate. I just think we needed a win.”
Love and Davis combined to go 10 of 21 from the floor but the rest of the team went 13 of 48 (27.1%).
Nance scored the Tar Heels’ first seven points as they began the game with an 11–5 run over the first eight minutes
Bacot didn’t get off a shot in the first 7½ minutes and didn’t score until 9:12 left in the first half. That started a 4–0 run after a Cormac Ryan 3-pointer had cut the Irish’s deficit to one.
Notre Dame took its first lead at 21–15 with 11 consecutive points, including three 3-pointers, and the Irish led 27–19 at halftime. After Hubert Davis made only 14 substitutions in the loss at N.C. State, he made substitutions 10 times in the first half Wednesday. He made double the number of substitutions in the first half than his team’s field goal total.
“We weren’t finishing at the rim, we weren’t making open shots and that was the story of the first half,” Love said.
Carolina took a three-point lead with a 15–4 run in the first 4:30 of the second half after a pair of RJ Davis jumpers. The Tar Heels had three assists in the first 2:45 of the second half after dishing out none in the first half.
“I think it started with RJ with those two steals right out the half and then he brought that spark we needed and got our energy flowing,” Love said.
Notre Dame retook a three-point lead, but a Love 3-pointer and a Nance follow shot put Carolina up 47–44 with 8:30 left. The lead changed hands several times in the next few minutes.
Love’s reverse layup on a baseline drive, UNC’s fourth shot of the possession, gave UNC the lead for good, and a Bacot layup made it 55–52 with 2:49 remaining. RJ Davis’ short jumper with 49 seconds left pushed the edge to three with 49 seconds left.
Leaky Black missed a layup attempt with 8.7 seconds left, but Notre Dame knocked the rebound out of bounds.
After Love made a pair of free-throw attempts with six seconds left, Notre Dame’s JJ Starling made a free-throw attempt with 4.8 seconds left. Love rebounded Starling’s intentional miss on the second attempt and scored the game-winning two points at the line with three seconds left.
Ryan led Notre Dame (10–18, 2–15) with 14 points and two 3-pointers, with Charlotte native Trey Wertz adding 13 points and three 3-pointers. The Irish have lost five consecutive games, with each game decided by five points or fewer.
NOTES — Carolina returns home Saturday to face No. 6 Virginia at 6 p.m. (ESPN). The Cavaliers (21–5, 13–3), who won the first meeting in Charlottesville 65–58 on Jan. 10, lost at Boston College on Wednesday night 63–48. … UNC’s previous worst 3-point-shooting game this season was 16.1% (5 of 31) in the Feb. 13 loss to Miami. … The 19 first-half points were Carolina’s fewest against an unranked team since Feb. 24, 2015, against N.C. State. … UNC’s 19% first-half shooting was its lowest in a half since 1980. … The five first-half field goals were the fewest in a half in the last 10 seasons. … Carolina leads the series 29–9, including 13–4 since the Irish joined the ACC, and 6–4 in South Bend.
UNC 63, Notre Dame 59
UNC lineup combinations
|No. 16 Miami||15–5||24–6|
|No. 13 Virginia||15–5||23–6|
|No. 25 Pittsburgh||14–6||21–10|
Duke 62, North Carolina 57
No. 13 Virginia 75, Louisville 60
Georgia Tech 73, Boston College 65
Virginia Tech 82, Florida State 60
Syracuse 72, Wake Forest 63
No. 26 Miami 78, No. 25 Pittsburgh 76
Clemson 87, Notre Dame 64
End of regular season
|28||Friday||W, 101–40||Johnson C. Smith||Home||Exhibition|
|11||Friday||W, 102–86||College of Charleston||Home||2–0|
|20||Sunday||W, 80–64||James Madison||Home||4–0|
|Phil Knight Invitational|
|24||Thursday||W, 89–81||First round: Portland||Portland||5–0|
|27||Sunday||L, 103–101, |
No. 1 Alabama
|ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|30||Wednesday||L, 77–65||No. 21 Indiana||Bloomington, Ind.||5–3|
|4||Sunday||L, 80–72||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||5–4, |
|10||Saturday||W, 75–59||Georgia Tech||Home||6–4, |
|13||Tuesday||W, 100–67||The Citadel||Home||7–4|
|CBS Sports Classic|
|17||Saturday||W, 89–84, OT||Ohio State||New York||8–4|
|30||Friday||L, 76–74||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||9–5, |
|4||Wednesday||W, 88–79||Wake Forest||Home||10–5, |
|7||Saturday||W, 81–64||Notre Dame||Home||11–5, |
|10||Tuesday||L, 65–58||No. 14 Virginia||Charlottesville||11–6, |
|14||Saturday||W, 80–59||Louisville||Louisville, Ky.||12–6, |
|17||Tuesday||W, 72–64||Boston College||Home||13–6, |
|21||Saturday||W, 80–69||N.C. State||Home||14–6, |
|24||Tuesday||W, 72–68||Syracuse||Syracuse, N.Y.||15–6, |
|1||Wednesday||L, 65–64||Pittsburgh||Home||15–7, |
|4||Saturday||L, 63–57||No. 12 Duke||Durham||15–8, |
|7||Tuesday||L, 92–85||Wake Forest||Winston-Salem||15–9, |
|11||Saturday||W, 91–71||Clemson||Home|| 16–9, |
|13||Monday||L, 80–72||No. 16 Miami||Home||16–10, |
|19||Sunday||L, 77–69||N.C. State||Raleigh||16–11, |
|22||Wednesday||W, 63–59||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||17–11, |
|25||Saturday||W, 71–63||No. 14 Virginia||Home||18–11, |
|27||Monday||W, 77–66||Florida State||Tallahassee, Fla.||19–11, |
|4||Saturday||L, 62–57||No. 12 Duke||Home||19–12,|
|8||Wednesday||W, 85–61||Boston College||Greensboro||20–12|
|9||Thursday||L, 68–59||No. 14 Virginia||Greensboro||20–13|
Photo via @UNC_Basketball