Notre Dame had fond memories of playing North Carolina at the Greensboro Coliseum. It was in that same arena that the Irish hoisted the ACC Championship trophy after beating the Tar Heels in 2015. Unfortunately, after a water crisis resulted in Sunday’s game being moved to Greensboro, the Irish were unable to recapture that 2015 magic and lost 83-76 for their fourth straight loss. Here’s what we learned.
Okay, now it may be time to be worried
Teams can overcome losing streaks. They happen, even to the best teams in the country. However, the remaining margin for error is dwindling with each passing loss for Notre Dame. It has certainly been a tough stretch facing teams like Duke, Virginia and North Carolina, but coming out winless is a painful outcome for a team that finds themselves drawing dangerously close to the NCAA Tournament bubble after their latest loss.
Sure, the Irish played the Tar Heels tough on the road (I know it wasn’t in Chapel Hill. That was still a road game), but moral victories are nonexistent at this point in the season, especially when you are on a losing streak. Now facing a quicker turnover thanks to the postponement of this game, the Irish better get back on track on their home floor Monday against Wake Forest and get back to their winning ways by the time conference tournament rolls around.
North Carolina exploited one of Notre Dame’s major weaknesses
We know the Irish don’t rely on their presence in the paint. Aside from Bonzie Colson, it is tough for Mike Brey to find a playmaker at the rim. North Carolina doesn’t have that problem. When you have towers like Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks lingering below the goal, you can expect a significant rebounding advantage. The Tar Heels enjoyed that on Sunday.
The Irish were out-rebounded 44-26, were dominated in the paint and on second chance points as North Carolina has six different players finish in double figures in the scoring column. The Irish have been in similar situations before and used their sharp shooting to carry them to high scoring victories. It didn’t work out today, as the height disadvantage in the paint was much more significant than usual. Brey and the Irish definitely missed Zach Auguste on Sunday.
Notre Dame needs to be clutch again
This had the makings of another steal of a victory for Notre Dame when VJ Beachem hit a huge three with under four minutes left to cut the Carolina lead to just two, after being down 15. The three gave Beachem 20 points on the day and gave the Irish life, as they looked poised to make another clutch performance in the waning minutes to get a much-needed win.
Instead, Steve Vasturia missed a couple shots while Matt Farrell committed a turnover and the Tar Heels padded their slim lead and secured the victory in the game’s final minutes.
The Irish are in major need of a boost, and it has to come from their reliable veterans who have directed them to victory time and again early in the ACC schedule. The Irish need Farrell and Vasturia now more than ever, as the Irish face their final seven games to remain in the top half of the ACC.