Mike Brey took his Notre Dame Fighting Irish down to Chapel Hil, North Carolina to tip off the 2019 season against the #9 North Carolina Tar Heels. Coming off a disastrous 2018 campaign, Notre Dame was looking to begin its season with a bang.
The first half started out poorly for Notre Dame. The Irish started 0-5 from the field and took until 12:32 for someone other than John Mooney to score. North Carolina’s freshman phenomenon, Cole Anthony did not disappoint in his Smith Center debut. He nearly recorded a double-double in the opening 20 minutes, scoring 11 points and snaring 7 rebounds. T.J. Gibbs Jr. began the Irish comeback by hitting back to back three pointers midway through the first half. Both he and Prentiss Hubb scored 11 points, with three three pointers apiece, in the first half. This backcourt duo helped the Irish to go on a 16-4 run and take their first lead in the game at 25-23 with 3:50 left in the half. To the surprise of many, Notre Dame entered halftime with a 31-30 lead.
Hubb and Anthony continued their hot shooting in the 2nd half, as they seemed to trade baskets on each possession. North Carolina inched ahead just prior to the under 12 media timeout as Notre Dame committed back to back turnovers. North Carolina used a 6-0 spurt to extend their lead to 58-52 with 9:25 to go, forcing Mike Brey to take a timeout to settle the troops. The Tar Heels began to pull away from the Irish following this timeout as the Fighting Irish had no answer to stop Anthony. He finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. From this point forward, North Carolina held a comfortable double digit lead for most of the evening.
Outside of the trio of Hubb (22 points), Gibbs (19 points), and Mooney (10 points), no other player on the Irish presented much of an offensive threat. The Tar Heels shot 46.7% from the field. Meanwhile, Notre Dame finished the night shooting 35.3% from the field and 57.1% from the free throw line. The Irish also struggled on the boards as the Tar Heels outrebounded 51-31.
The Irish return to action on Saturday when they take on the Robert Morris Colonials at 11am (CT) at Purcell Pavilion.