UNC Basketball: Tar Heels outlast the shorthanded Fighting Irish

SOUTH BEND, IN - JANUARY 13: Brandon Huffman
SOUTH BEND, IN - JANUARY 13: Brandon Huffman /

The Tar Heels move to 3-2 in ACC play after tough matchup with the Fighting Irish in South Bend.

The North Carolina Tar Heels traveled to South Bend to take on a shorthanded Notre Dame squad and escaped with a 69-68 victory.

In what was a disappointing performance from the Tar Heels for most of the game, they made winning plays late in order to leave with a win.

Joel Berry, who had a poor performance for most of the game, made up for it late by sinking two free throws, including the eventual game-winner, with 7.1 seconds left.

The Irish, who were without two starters in All-American Bonzie Colson (Foot) and Matt Farrell (Ankle), fought all game long and even had a chance to win it at the end with two shots.

But both fell short and UNC escaped, getting a much-needed win.

Notre Dame finished with 20 offensive rebounds in the game and saw T.J. Gibbs’ potential game-winning putback hit every part of the rim before eventually falling off.

After leading by three at the half, the Tar Heels came out extremely flat in the second half, falling behind quickly after the break.

Shooting only 42 percent from the field and 28 percent from three on the night, two of Carolina’s best shooters Kenny Williams and Cameron Johnson combined for just 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting.

What seems to kill Carolina in every loss is their lack of defense on three-point shooting, and tonight looked like the same old Carolina defense as the Irish finished 10-of-24 (41.7 percent) from three.

Theo Pinson, who was very quiet in the first half, was the spark for the Tar Heels halfway through the second half as he finished with 13 points (9 in the second half), 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and a crucial drawn charge call against T.J. Gibbs with just over a minute left.

With such a short bench for Notre Dame, some players have been asked to take on larger roles than they expected coming into the season. None more than sophomore wing, Nikola Djogo.

On the season he was averaging just 1.5 points a game but erupted for 12 points on the night including 3-of-6 from three.

In what was a back and forth game all night long, there were four lead changes in just the final minute and a half, and over 20 in the game.

Luke Maye led the Tar Heels with 18 points and 11 rebounds (7th double-double on the year – tied for second in the NCAA), seeing only five of those points coming in the last 25 minutes of the game.

Joel Berry finished with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting for Carolina.

For Notre Dame, T.J. Gibbs paced the Irish with 19 points, though it did take him 20 shots to get there (6-of-20 FG).

Martinas Geben was in the middle of the action all night long and had 14 points and 9 rebounds.

Notre Dame has lost two in a row and falls to 3-2 in the ACC.

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For the Tar Heels, they have now won two in a row and move to 3-2 in the conference and take on No.16 Clemson in Chapel Hill on January 16.