The North Carolina Tar Heels escaped at home against the fighting Irish of Notre Dame 66-65. The Heels needed this ACC victory in the most possible way. The win gives UNC their first conference victory of the season. UNC, due to Covid-19 traces throughout the Syracuse program, was forced to switch opponents several days ago. This was the second game on the Heels schedule postponed due to the virus.
First Half Notables:
Notre Dame hurting with its depth and not having Carolina native Trey Wertz, who averages 29 minutes a game as floor general, had an effect on Mike Brey’s game plan.
Notre Dame’s pack-line defense, which clogged the lane forcing UNC to trust it’s perimeter game, helped the fighting Irish maintain a slight 4-point lead late in the first half. The Tar Heels had zero fast break points in the first half, which isn’t an anomaly this season. UNC is known for its infamous primary and secondary breaks.
Notre Dame shot 6 for 16 compared to UNC shooting 4 for 12 from downtown during the first period.
Carolina’s most productive and arguably best player this season, Armando Bacot, was physical on both ends – forcing the action and at times being missed for open looks inside the paint when the looks were there. As mentioned before, every team UNC has played this season packs the paint, because they don’t respect UNC shooting from the perimeter.
The second half started with back and forth tenacious defense from both sides. The Irish lead 38-35 four minutes into the second half.
Roy Williams made two quick substitutions – keeping the bigs fresh. Some might question why, but in a tight ball-game and a depth depleted Irish team, you want the slightest advantage possible. On the contrary, this may affect the players gathering a rhythm.
North Carolina made it known going inside early and often in the second half would get them to the promise land. Day’ron Sharpe continuously attacked the basket, being forced to the charity stripe.
Sharpe on back to back possessions demanded the ball and completely obliterated the Irish defenders for the easy deuces. If Sharpe catches the ball that close to the basket, you can bet your last dollar it’s a guaranteed basket or he’ll go to the line.
Key Turning Point
With eight minutes left, on a five on four break, Caleb Love settled for a midrange jump shot instead of feeding Garrison Brooks in the paint who begged for the ball. Eight seconds later, Notre Dame came down the court for a wide open three to extend the lead to seven.
Day’ron Sharpe led a 6-0 break by himself to help the Heels gain a 59-57 lead late in the second half. This run included a steal in the half court set, helping UNC get their first fast break points of the game.
With about 2 minutes left Kerwin Walton, UNC’s most efficient marksman (shooting 50 percent from deep on the season), hit a three from deep giving the Heels a one-point edge.
The biggest and most important question of the season has been; when UNC needs a bucket who do you go to? That was answered with Leaky Black attacking the lane, finishing through contact, giving the Heels their lead and putting the nail in the coffin over the Irish. This is the second game this season where Leaky has sealed the deal. Rather settling for the shot, Leaky is going to his strengths – finding his spots and being productive.
Carolina’s bread and butter is playing inside out. Roy Williams limited Day’ron Sharpe for the first several games to allow him to get a feel for the game and get up to speed with college basketball. Truth is, Day’ron Sharpe is an ANIMAL!! 25 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal. Day’ron Sharpe will not come off the bench again this season, unless it’s due to poor play. He’s a physical specimen, with an attitude who plays with aggression. He’s UNC’s identity.