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Tar Heels sneak past Irish

Chapel Hill, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - North Carolina's final home game of the season was a lot closer than expected, but the 14th-ranked Tar Heels nevertheless escaped with a narrow 63-61 victory over upset-minded Notre Dame, stretching their winning streak to 12.

Marcus Paige uncharacteristically missed two free throws down the stretch, but UNC's star guard made up for the misses with a game-saving weakside block of a driving Eric Atkins just before the buzzer.

James Michael McAdoo finished with 14 points and nine rebounds for the Tar Heels (23-7, 13-4 ACC), who will close out their regular season on Saturday at rival Duke.

UNC's 12-game winning streak against ACC opponents is its longest since the 1986-87 season, when the Heels won all 14 of their league contests.

Atkins led Notre Dame (15-16, 6-12) with 21 points, while Pat Connaughton logged 17 points and 13 boards in the loss.

"I'm proud of our group," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. "We put ourselves in position. ... I think there is something to build on there where we dug in a little better defensively."

Barring a few wins in the conference tournament, the Fighting Irish will finish their inaugural season in the ACC with a losing record for the first time since the 1998-99 campaign.

The Heels, perhaps looking forward to their anticipated matchup with Duke this weekend, watched a 14-point halftime lead evaporate as Connaughton opened the second half on a personal 10-1 run.

Brice Johnson ended a string of six straight UNC misses with a baseline hook shot, but Atkins scored the next seven points, evening things at 44-44 with a 3-pointer, before Steve Vasturia's triple the next time down gave the Irish their first lead at 47-46.

After Atkins fed Zach Auguste inside for a layup for a three-point Notre Dame lead, the Irish went the next seven minutes without scoring.

North Carolina, however, also hit a cold spell, and it was no more than a one- possession game until UNC rattled off seven consecutive points in crunch time.

J.P. Tokoto's mid-range jumper capped the surge and gave the hosts a 61-56 lead, though Connaughton kept the Irish close with a three-point play with 52.1 seconds remaining.

Johnson's offensive rebound extended UNC's next possession, and the Irish were forced to foul Paige, who came in as an 89.1 percent free throw shooter. Paige made the first and missed the second, and Atkins cut the deficit to 62-61 on a quick layup with 8.6 seconds to play.

Again Paige was quickly fouled, and again he went 1-of-2, allowing Atkins a chance to go coast-to-coast for a layup attempt that would have sent the game to overtime. McAdoo made the initial challenge, and Paige came over with textbook help defense that resulted in the deciding denial.

"You could kind of see in [Eric] Atkins' eyes that he was taking it and keeping it all the way to the basket," recalled Paige. "I just went all the way in and kind of made that choice that I was going to defend the rim instead of giving up the three, and I guess I guessed right and he tried to lay it up and I was there."

The Heels scored 12 second-chance points in the first half, five coming from Joel James on a three-point play and tip-in that gave UNC a 23-13 cushion with just under eight minutes left in the half.

The margin reached as high as 15, and the hosts brought a healthy 41-27 lead into the intermission.

Game Notes

UNC guard Leslie McDonald, in his last game at the Dean Dome, shot 2-of-8 from the field for five points ... Paige also shot 2-of-8 from the floor ... Both teams made under 46 percent from the foul line. Notre Dame missed seven free throws, five fewer than UNC ... The Irish have gone 7-12 since leading scorer Jerian Grant left the university because of an academic issue in late Dec. ... The Heels went 15-3 at the Smith Center this season ... This was Notre Dame's first visit to Chapel Hill since Feb. 23, 1993.

03/03 22:43:34 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
DUKE 47
TULA 13
Final
ECU 70
UNC 41
Final
TOWSN 31
NCCU 20
 
Final
NCSU 42
PRES 0
 
1:30pm Today
CAR
CLB
 
8:30pm Tonight
CAR
PIT
Final
KAN 2
DET 3
Final
CHC 8
LOS 7
Final
OAK 0
PHI 3
Final
NYY 3
TOR 6
Final
COL 5
ARI 1
Final
BAL 7
BOS 2
Final
PIT 0
MIL 1
Final
TAM 3
CWS 1
Final
MIN 3
CLE 7
Final
ATL 2
NYM 4
Final
HOU 10
SEA 1
Final
MIA 2
WAS 3
Final
STL 8
CIN 4
Final
SDP 3
SFG 2
Final
ANA 8
TEX 5
1:05pm Today
NYY
TOR
 
1:10pm Today
MIA
WAS
 
1:35pm Today
BAL
BOS
 
1:35pm Today
PIT
MIL
 
1:35pm Today
ATL
NYM
 
1:40pm Today
TAM
CWS
 
2:10pm Today
MIN
CLE
 
2:10pm Today
KAN
DET
 
2:10pm Today
HOU
SEA
 
2:20pm Today
CHC
LOS
 
3:35pm Today
ANA
TEX
 
4:05pm Today
OAK
PHI
 
4:10pm Today
COL
ARI
 
4:10pm Today
SDP
SFG
 
8:05pm Tonight
STL
CIN
 
Final
WISC 68
BGU 17
Final
MSU 73
EMICH 14
Final
VT 24
GT 27
Final
PITT 20
IOWA 24
Final
RICE 42
ODU 45
Final
UGA 66
TROY 0
Final
SYR 20
MD 34
Final
DUKE 47
TULA 13
Final
COL 21
HAW 12
Final
AKR 17
MARS 48
Final
WAKE 24
ARMY 21
Final
KU 24
CMICH 10
Final
ALA 42
UF 21
Final
FIU 3
LOU 34
Final
ECU 70
UNC 41
Final
NAVY 24
RUTG 31
Final
SMU 6
TEXAM 58
Final
MICH 10
UTAH 26
Final
BYU 41
UVA 33
Final
WYO 20
FATL 19
Final
MIZZ 27
IND 31
Final
PSU 48
UMASS 7
Final
MINN 24
SJST 7
Final
ILL 42
TXST 35
Final
WASH 45
GASTATE 14
Final
SMISS 21
APPST 20
Final
TOL 34
BST 23
Final
OHIO 36
IDAHO 24
Final
CIN 31
UMO 24
Final
MEM 36
MTST 17
Final
LSU 29
MSST 34
Final
ARK 52
NILL 14
Final
ARKST 21
UTST 14
Final
SALABAMA 6
GASO 28
Final
WVU 33
OKLA 45
Final
VANDY 34
SCAR 48
Final
NEB 41
MIAMI 31
Final
NMST 35
NMU 38
Final
HOU 47
UNLV 14
Final
FSU 23
CLEM 17
Final
ARZ 49
CAL 45
Final
ORST 28
SDST 7
Final
WASU 31
OREG 38
Final
BSU 34
LALAF 9
1:30pm Today
CAR
CLB
 
5:00pm Tonight
WAS
BUF
 
6:30pm Tonight
CLB
STL
 
8:00pm Tonight
EDM
CAL
 
8:00pm Tonight
CAL
EDM
 
1:00pm Today
CLE
BAL
1:00pm Today
STL
DAL
1:00pm Today
DET
GBP
1:00pm Today
NYG
HOU
1:00pm Today
JAC
IND
1:00pm Today
NOS
MIN
1:00pm Today
NEP
OAK
1:00pm Today
BUF
SDC
1:00pm Today
CIN
TEN
1:00pm Today
PHI
WAS
4:05pm Today
ARI
SFX
4:25pm Today
SEA
DEN
4:25pm Today
MIA
KAN
8:30pm Tonight
CAR
PIT
Final
TOWSN 31
NCCU 20
 
Final
NCSU 42
PRES 0