The No. 20 North Carolina men’s basketball team must be feeling pretty lucky right now.
After playing a close, back-and-forth affair with a scrappy Notre Dame team for the whole game, the Tar Heels (14-4, 3-2 ACC) found themselves with the ball, trailing 68-67, to the undermanned Fighting Irish (13-5, 3-2 ACC). Just four seconds remained on the shot clock, and 10.9 seconds were left in the game.
Conducting an out-of-bounds play from the baseline, Joel Berry II tried to lob the ball up to Sterling Manley for the go-ahead bucket. Manley caught the ball in traffic and took a rushed, off-balance midrange shot from the free-throw line. Berry caught the airball shot and attempted a putback. Although he missed the shot, Berry was fouled by T.J. Gibbs Jr. in the act. The senior, who shoots 89 percent from the line, made two clutch free throws and gave UNC a 69-68 edge with 7.1 seconds left.
Following Berry’s timely free throws, Gibbs dribbled the ball down the full length of the court and threw up a circus shot that bounced off the rim. The rebound fell directly back into his hands. He took his second chance opportunity, but the ball hung on the rim for what felt like an eternity, and ultimately rolled off, allowing the Tar Heels to escape South Bend with the win.
For now, UNC can breathe a sigh of relief for surviving a nail-biter in a hostile environment. However, the game showcased some causes for concern as the Tar Heels dive deeper into a challenging ACC schedule.