Great ACC Tourney Run Ends, Notre Dame beats UNC, 90-82
Thanks to Triangle Criminal Defense in Raleigh
Isaiah Hicks steps to the free throw line after getting fouled on an attempted jump hook. He makes the first, misses the second. UNC now leads #11 Notre Dame 64-56 in the ACC Championship game.
Things are looking good. UNC has rallied back from being down five points at half. Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks are eating up offensive rebounds and hitting layups. After a sub-par first half, Marcus Paige has 12 points in this half alone. On top of all that, Notre Dame cannot hit a shot to save their life. It looks like Carolina is about to pull away and grab its first ACC Tournament Championship since 2008.
All of that at 9:21 left in the second half.
Fast forward one minute and eight seconds.
The score is 67-64, Notre Dame… but they weren’t done there. The Fighting Irish would continue with a what would be 24-2 run.
During that run, there were six Carolina turnovers and four Notre Dame threes.
I’m sitting here trying to understand my emotions and honestly, I can’t. To go from joy, confusion, anger and sadness so quickly is something only sports can accomplish.
What was the reason behind this run? Fatigue on Carolina’s part? This was their fourth game in as many days. Offensive ineptitude? A lack of composure? Poor coaching decisions? Or maybe, just maybe, the #11 team and the second best shooting team in the country had an amazing night led by an experienced group of seniors. Before I dive into some of the UNC numbers, I want to remind everyone something very important. IT ISN’T JUST ABOUT UNC. There are two teams playing in a basketball game. What we saw Notre Dame do on this Saturday night was amazing. An outstanding performance. Something that UNC just couldn’t overcome.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at the numbers:
-On offense, Carolina shot well from the field (53%) but struggled from deep (29.2%).
-While UNC seemed to dominate on the boards, they only had a +2 rebounding margin.
-Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson continued what was an amazing tournament run. Paige had 24 points, making five three pointers. Johnson had 20 points on 10 of 12 shooting. The two combined for 140 points this week, that’s 46% of UNC’s total offense for the tournament.
-Justin Jackson went from very very hot to very very cold overnight. After shooting 4-5 from downtown against UVA, Jackson was 0-7 against ND.
-Lost in all of this was an efficient performance by J.P. Tokoto. The junior stuffed the stat sheet with 7 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals and only 1 turnover. This J.P. Tokoto is everything Carolina fans could wish for.
Of course this hurts. This stings. UNC has been to the ACC Championship game four of the past five years, and has lost every. single. one.
I think what hurts the most about this loss, at least for me, is that Carolina was the last line of defense for the “old ACC.” Newcomer Notre Dame has finally broken through. The rest of the ACC is catching up to the Tobacco Road trio of schools (UNC, d00k, NC State) and to me, that’s completely unacceptable.
The “old ACC” is dead. Long live the “old ACC.”
As for this year, Tar Heel fans should be excited. A team that couldn’t seem to pull it out against the top teams in the country beat Louisville, UVA and took Notre Dame to the wire. UNC really helped their tournament stock. Instead of a six seed, chances are Carolina will grab a four seed in the NCAA tournament.
I know it’s hard right now, Tar Heels, but smile. UNC played their hearts out and put together a very impressive four game stretch. This is a team that can make serious noise in the NCAA tournament. So for now, R-E-L-A-X. You should be proud to be a Tar Heel. But prepare yourself. We’re getting into the thick of March, and more madness is on the way. So let’s hope Carolina can get a little luck for the rest of the month.
It all starts tomorrow ladies and gentlemen. Cross your fingers, put on your lucky Jordan jersey and pray that we’re nowhere near Kentucky in the bracket.
Photos Courtesy of Spencer Herlong (@TarHeelPhoto)