James Michael McAdoo scored 18 points and grabbed eight boards as the North Carolina Tar Heels beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday afternoon in South Bend. The Heels are now 16-7 overall on the season and 6-4 in the ACC. They also have a five game conference win streak after starting out ACC play with a 1-4 record. UNC hosts Duke Wednesday night in what should be an electric atmosphere in the Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
It was the Irish, not the Heels, that got off to a fast start in this contest. Notre Dame jumped out to an early 10-2 lead with 15:40 left in the first half. The Heels responded with a mini-run of their own, cutting the lead to 13-10 after a Marcus Paige jumper. From there, the Irish controlled the pace and the score for most of the half.
It was just under two minutes left in the first half when the Heels tied up the game, and 30 seconds later the Heels took the lead off of a James Michael McAdoo dunk. UNC never let go of the lead after that point, keeping a four point lead at halftime and expanding the lead to 16. In the end, North Carolina hit their free throws and held off the Irish for the 11 point win.
UNC had very balanced scoring, with five players scoring more than nine points in the contest. JMM led all Tar Heels with 18, and Marcus Paige was right behind him with 16 points and six assists. JP Tokoto chipped in 13 points in one of his best games of the season, and Brice Johnson added in 10 points off the bench. A lot of UNC’s offense also came off turnovers. Notre Dame turned over the ball 17 times on the afternoon, leading to many easy buckets in transition for the Heels.
For the Irish offense, it was center Garrick Sherman leading the way with 17 points. Guard Pat Connaughton grabbed 10 boards and scored seven points, while Eric Atkins had a rough shooting day but still scored 12 points. As a team, the Irish shot 45.5% from the field and 6-21 from three after an early 4-4 start from deep.
North Carolina had a great day from the free throw line, converting 16 of 21 attempts for 76%. James Michael McAdoo had a particularly strong day, going a perfect 6-6 from the charity stripe. Shooting wise, UNC finished with 27 makes on 61 attempts for 44.3%. The Heels struggles from the three point line mirrored Notre Dame’s struggles, as UNC shot an ugly 27% from downtown.
It is great to see the game to game improvement from this UNC team after such a poor start to ACC play. Back on January 20th after the Virginia loss, most UNC fans would have never thought the Heels would have any chance to beat the Dukies or Pittsburgh later on in the season. But now, with the Heels on a five game win streak and playing some of their best ball of the season, it wouldn’t surprise anyone.