Game Blog: UNC survives Notre Dame push, 63-61
Posted March 3
After cruising to a 14-point lead over Notre Dame in the first half, the Fighting Irish battled to grab a lead over the Heels in the second. With just over one minute to go in the game UNC pushed ahead forcing key turnovers and hitting free throws. The Tar Heels defeated Notre Dame 63-61.
1:30 second half; UNC 61, Notre Dame 56: James Michael McAdoo hit a free throw and followed it up with a basket on the next possession to put the Heels back in the lead at 57-56. Notre Dame turned it over and Brice Johnson took advantage hitting a two. J.P. Tokoto hit a three to put the Heels up five.
5:00 second half; UNC 52, Notre Dame 52: Both teams combined for 3:40 of scoreless basketball until Steve Vasturia hit a free throw, on the Heels next possession Marcus Paige hit a jumper to keep the game close.
9:42 second half; UNC 50, Notre Dame 49: The Heels regain the lead after forcing a Notre Dame turnover and following it with a James Michael McAdoo jumper.
13:07 second half; Notre Dame 49, UNC 46: An Eric Atkins three-pointer tied the game at 44-44, a three by Steve Vasturia gave Notre Dame the 47-46 lead.
15:43 second half; UNC 44, Notre Dame 39: Notre Dame comes out of the break and scores the first points of the second half on a Pat Connaughton basket. The basket sparks a 10-1 Notre Dame run, with all of the Fighting Irish's points coming from Connaughton. Brice Johnson hits the Heels first field goal of the game with 16:31 on the clock.
Halftime; UNC 41, Notre Dame 27: At the half North Carolina leads Notre Dame by 14 points, one point shy of their largest lead of the game. J.P. Tokoto leads the Heels with nine points and five rebounds, he has yet to miss a shot tonight.
3:01 first half; UNC 35, Notre Dame 22: Leslie McDonald hits his first three of the game for the 28-16 lead. Notre Dame's Eric Atkins answers back with a three of his own, but Marcus Paige quickly hits another on the other end. A layup by J.P. Tokoto and a jumper by McDonald back-to-back give the Heels a 13 point lead and force Notre Dame to call another timeout.
7:48 first half; UNC 23, Notre Dame 13: Heels come back after the timeout with a great defensive stand to keep Notre Dame from scoring but can't convert on their end. Joel James hits a basket off an offensive rebound and is fouled for the three-point play. North Carolina takes an eight point lead with 8:45 to go in the first half. James tips another in for the ten point lead and forces Notre Dame to call a timeout.
11:10 first half; UNC 18, Notre Dame 13: A three by J.P. Tokoto put the Heels up by five points with 13:46 to go in the game, A few minutes later Tokoto found Brice Johnson for an alley-oop to keep their lead at five.
15:39 first half; UNC 11, Notre Dame 4: In true Senior Night fashion, Wade Moody opened up the game with a three for the Tar Heels. The senior walk-ons helped North Carolina to a 7-4 lead before they were subbed out for the usual UNC starters. James Michael McAdoo is leading all scorers with six points at the first media timeout.
Starters for North Carolina forward James Manor, Leslie McDonald, forward Denzel Robinson, James Michael McAdoo and guard Wade Moody.
Monday marks Notre Dame's last game of the season, for the Tar Heels it's their second to last game but the last they will play at home. Tonight ahead of the game they honored the senior players and managers, most notably Leslie McDonald who has been with the program for five years.
Pregame: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish put the wraps on the 2013-14 regular season when they take on the North Carolina Tar Heels at the Smith Center on Monday night.
Notre Dame's first season as a member of the ACC hasn't gone quite according to plan, as Mike Brey's club comes into this finale sporting a 15-15 overall record, which includes a 6-11 league ledger. The Fighting Irish dropped an 85-81 overtime decision at home to Pittsburgh on Saturday, marking the team's third loss in the last four games. Brey's next win will be the 400th of his career.
North Carolina is playing its final home game of the campaign tonight, and it close out the regular season this Saturday at bitter rival Duke. The Tar Heels, who are tied with the Blue Devils with a conference mark of 12-4 heading into the week, have built up a serious head of steam in recent weeks, as Roy Williams' squad has reeled off 11 straight wins, the most recent of which occurring this past Saturday in a 60-56 decision at Virginia Tech.
North Carolina claimed a 73-62 win at Notre Dame on Feb. 8 in the first meeting between these new conference rivals this season, extending its lead in the all-time series to 17-4 in the process.
Putting points on the board hasn't really been an issue for Notre Dame this season, as the team ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring (72.4 ppg), while checking in fifth in both field goal percentage (.457) and 3-point field goal percentage (.361). They are the second-best squad in terms of assist-to- turnover ratio (1.5), and they are third in assists (15.4 apg). Unfortunately, the Irish have faltered on defense quite often, as they surrender 70.5 ppg to rank 13th in the 15-team league. Their average yield on field goal allowance (.446) ranks 14th, and their effort defending the 3-pointer (.383) has them dead last.
At present, there are three double-digit scorers on the roster for Notre Dame, as Eric Atkins (13.7 ppg, 4.8 apg), Garrick Sherman (13.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Pat Connaughton (13.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.0 apg) do their best to help the Irish compete on a nightly basis. Connaughton hit for 19 points, Atkins had 17 to go with nine assists, and Steve Vasturia 15 for UND in its recent overtime loss to Pittsburgh. The trio combined for eight of the team's 12 3-pointers, and the Irish shot 54.8 percent from the field for the game, while going 23-of-27 at the free-throw line. Unfortunately, the Panthers hit a few more field goals, went 24-of-28 at the charity stripe, easily won the rebounding battle (38-22), and took advantage of 16 UND turnovers (17 points).
North Carolina's 11-game win streak is its longest since 2008 when it won 13 straight, and it's been more than a decade (2001-01) since the Tar Heels won at least that many in a row against ACC foes. UNC boasts four double-digit scorers in Marcus Paige (17.2 ppg), James M. McAdoo (14.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Leslie McDonald (11.0 ppg) and Brice Johnson (10.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg). Paige, who also serves as the team's primary playmaker (130 assists) as well as its top 3-point shooter (71-of-179, .397), currently ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring. North Carolina is the second-highest scoring team in the league (76.7 ppg), but it ranks in the bottom half with regard to scoring defense (68.1 ppg, 10th). Despite their solid offensive numbers, the Heels are last in the league in free throw percentage (.626).
North Carolina put forth a lackluster offensive effort in its recent win at Virginia Tech, as the team shot just 41.8 percent from the field, missing 12 of its 17 3-point tries along the way, as well as half of its free throws (9- of-18). The Tar Heels did play solid defense though, holding the Hokies to 35.6 percent field goal efficiency, which included a 7-of-24 showing from beyond the arc. McAdoo paced the unit with 15 points, while McDonald added 14 and J.P. Tokoto a dozen for the winning side.
UNC has clinched a top-four seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament, but you just know the Heels want to keep the good times rolling as they stare down Duke this weekend, and head into the postseason with their winning streak in tact. The Irish are sure to put up a fight, but they're likely to come up well short of the upset.