Due to a busted water main on North Carolina’s campus, Saturday’s game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the North Carolina Tar Heels was postponed until Sunday and moved to the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. The last time the Irish played the Tar Heels in Greensboro, Notre Dame won the ACC championship.
That was a few years ago. It’s been a different story against the Tar Heels recently.
In an effort to put the most possible athleticism on the floor, Coach Brey gave Austin Torres his first start in place of Martin Geben. It didn’t matter early, as the Irish gave up second chance points and couldn’t get the offense going. Even without Theo Pinson, who was sidelined with an ankle injury, North Carolina threatened to pull away.
Despite the slow start, Notre Dame found themselves down by only two points with six minutes left in the first half. It seemed as if everything North Carolina chucked in the general direction of the rim, aside from foul shots, went in. Matt Farrell and Rex Pflueger had the answer for the Irish, and Steve Vasturia made some early buckets in a promising return to form.
As was predicted, North Carolina used their superior size to pull down eight offensive boards and score 24 points in the paint in the first half. Notre Dame missed threes and UNC made easy layups over the final six minutes of the first half, and the Irish entered the break trailing 42-34.
The second half was more of the same, with North Carolina building a 13 point lead and Coach Brey’s Irish needing a timeout with 15:41 left. Then, Carolina fans made referee Jamie Luckie mad, I think. With a little bit of help, The Irish got to the line and made their free throws, finding themselves down by just four with six minutes left. Kennedy Meeks fouled out on a play that probably should have been a no-call, and Notre Dame had its opportunity.
What followed was turnovers and missed shots, and a UNC dunk that was pretty much it. Oh well.
This loss was pretty big for the Irish. It feels as if Notre Dame earned their AP Ranking and tournament projection by losing close games to Villanova, Purdue and Florida State. Then they hit the skids, getting blown out by Virginia and Duke and losing to Georgia Tech. It’s a tough draw to have to go to North Carolina when you need a redeeming win, but such is life in the ACC.
On the other hand, losing to North Carolina is not the end of the world. It’s not Georgia Tech pulling an opportunistic win over Notre Dame out of their you-know-what; The Tar Heels are very, very good.
Remember when Notre Dame was leading the ACC? I remember. The Irish need to turn around and win the games they should win going forward.