UNC tops Notre Dame, extends winning streak to 12

Mar. 03, 2014 @ 10:33 PM

North Carolina sophomore Marcus Paige can now add game-saving block to his growing resume of clutch plays.

The point guard is better known as a scorer and passer – Paige is in the top five in the ACC in both points and assists and hit the winning lay-up in the final second of overtime last week at N.C. State.

But after Notre Dame point guard Eric Atkins (21 points) drove past freshman Nate Britt, Paige came over from the baseline to block Atkins’ shot with one second left and preserve a 63-61 win Monday night at the Smith Center.

Paige’s play helped UNC (23-7, 14-2 ACC) avoid a shocking upset on senior night and preserved the Tar Heels’ first 12-game conference winning streak since the ’86-’87 team went 14-0 in the league.

“Anything you can do to help your team win,” said Paige, an 89 percent free throw shooter who was 2 of 4 from the line in the final 17 seconds. “I was obviously disappointed in myself for missing free throws that could have put the game away and sealed the deal, but you have to move on to the next play and that was just as satisfying as hitting the buzzer-beater on offense a week ago.”

Notre Dame (15-16, 6-12) has struggled in its first season in the ACC and was missing injured senior center Garrick Sherman, who averages 13.6 points and 7.3 rebounds. But the Fighting Irish still came back from a 14-point halftime deficit and led with four minutes left.

But after scoring nine points in the first 14 minutes of the second half, UNC scored on its final six possessions to secure the win in Notre Dame’s first visit to Chapel Hill since 1993.

The Tar Heels started their 12-game winning streak with five double-digit victories, but they haven’t looked as smooth recently. Paige’s 35 points overshadowed some defensive breakdowns in an overtime win at N.C. State last Wednesday, and UNC struggled to break Virginia Tech’s zone in a 60-56 win on Saturday.

The Tar Heels had some deficiencies on both ends in the second half Monday, allowing open looks to the Fighting Irish and turning the ball over on offense.

“I’m tired of winning games ugly,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “It’s better than losing games ugly. I really thought we’d have a tremendous sense of urgency today. We played so much harder in practice yesterday than we did in the game today. We learned those lessons earlier in the season but we let them slip by the last couple games.”

The senior night festivities gave the Tar Heels a lift early.

Per a tradition that began under Dean Smith, Williams started all four seniors for the final home game – including Chapel Hill High graduates Denzel Robinson and James Manor and fellow walk-on Wade Moody. By the time the walk-ons were subbed out at the 17:21 mark, Moody made a 3-pointer and Robinson and Manor both had assists as UNC led 8-4.

The Tar Heels recorded 12 second-chance points on six offensive rebounds and led 41-27 at the break.

UNC was 16-0 when leading at halftime, but it didn’t take long for Notre Dame to come all the way back.

Pat Connaughton scored 10 straight points for Notre Dame, and then Atkins had seven straight as the Fighting Irish tied the game at 44 with 14:52 left.

Notre Dame eventually led by 3 with 13 minutes remaining before UNC went to a 1-3-1 zone with center Desmond Hubert in the middle. Hubert’s block started a stretch in which the Fighting Irish went nine straight possessions without a point. But the Tar Heels couldn’t take advantage against Notre Dame’s zone, marking two straight games that UNC struggled against that style of defense.

“It’s really the first time in 26 years as a head coach I’ve been concerned about the zone,” Williams said. “I always loved it when we faced a zone because we had great movement and could shoot the crap out of the ball and so the zones never bothered us. But this year people think that’s the way to play us.”

James Michael McAdoo eventually scored the go-ahead points with 3:09 to play on a transition basket, and Tokoto’s midrange jumper put the Tar Heels up 61-56 with 1:28 left.

McAdoo had a team-high 14 points and nine rebounds and Tokoto (11 points) made all five of his shots.

The Smith Center had been the site of some surprising defeats for UNC this season, including two of the only three non-conference home losses in the Roy Williams era and a loss to Miami in the ACC home opener. But some key plays late kept the Tar Heels from losing on senior night for the second straight year, and UNC now has its longest overall winning streak since the 2008-09 championship season heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale at Duke (9 p.m., ESPN).

“The effort level hasn’t been there, which is mindboggling,” Paige said. “You win, you want to keep winning, but we’ve had some lapses lately. We’re going to have a week to address that kind of stuff and move forward.”

 

 

 

 

No. 14 NORTH CAROLINA 63, NOTRE DAME 61

 

FG

FT

Reb

NOTRE DAME

Min

M-A

M-A

O-T

A

PF

PTS

Atkins

39

9-17

1-4

1-2

6

3

21

Burgett

24

1-3

0-0

0-0

0

4

3

Connaughton

37

7-13

2-3

2-13

1

2

17

Auguste

28

3-8

0-1

2-7

0

1

6

Vasturia

37

4-8

1-2

0-2

1

4

11

Beachem

6

0-1

1-2

0-0

0

0

1

Jackson

7

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

2

0

Knight

22

1-2

0-0

0-5

0

4

2

Totals

200

25-52

5-12

6-30

8

20

61

Percentages: FG .481, FT .417.

3-Point Goals: 6-19, .316 (Vasturia 2-6, Atkins 2-6, Connaughton 1-3, Burgett 1-3, Beachem 0-1).

Team Rebounds: 1.

Blocked Shots: 1 (Knight).

Turnovers: 13 (Connaughton 3, Atkins 2, Vasturia 2, Knight 2, Burgett, Jackson).

Steals: 2 (Connaughton, Knight).

Technical Fouls: None.

 

FG

FT

Reb

NORTH CAROLINA

Min

M-A

M-A

O-T

A

PF

PTS

McDonald

21

2-8

0-0

0-0

3

4

5

Manor

3

0-0

0-0

0-0

1

0

0

Robinson

3

0-0

0-0

0-1

1

0

0

McAdoo

32

5-14

4-9

1-9

1

2

14

Moody

3

1-1

0-0

0-0

0

0

3

Britt

21

2-3

0-0

0-0

1

3

4

Meeks

12

2-4

1-2

1-4

0

1

5

Paige

35

2-8

2-4

0-4

6

0

7

Johnson

21

4-9

1-3

1-4

0

2

9

Tokoto

26

5-5

1-1

2-6

3

3

11

Hubert

8

0-0

0-2

1-2

1

0

0

Hicks

11

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

1

0

James

4

2-2

1-1

2-2

0

0

5

Totals

200

25-54

10-22

11-35

17

16

63

Percentages: FG .463, FT .455.

3-Point Goals: 3-12, .250 (Moody 1-1, Paige 1-5, McDonald 1-6).

Team Rebounds: 3.

Blocked Shots: 3 (McAdoo, Manor, Paige).

Turnovers: 10 (McDonald 2, Paige 2, Tokoto 2, Britt 2, Johnson, McAdoo).

Steals: 7 (Paige 2, James, Meeks, Johnson, Britt, McAdoo).

Technical Fouls: None.

Notre Dame

27

34—61

North Carolina

41

22—63

A_15,175.

Officials_Bryan Kersey, Michael Stephens, Mike Stuart.