Greensboro — Tears came easier than words to Brice Johnson as the 6-foot-9 forward held his head in his hands. It wasn’t so long ago that it seemed he and the North Carolina basketball team held the program’s 18th ACC Tournament Title in their grasp as well.
Like the tears, that too slipped through their fingers.
UNC (24-11) fell to Notre Dame (29-5) 90-82 in a championship game that seemed the Tar Heels' for the taking.
After going 0-for-2 from deep in the first period, Marcus Paige drilled two of his first three long balls to open the second half and spark a 14-2 run for his squad.
With nine minutes and 58 seconds between the Tar Heels and the tournament title, UNC was on top by nine.
After the game, Coach Roy Williams somberly recounted what happened next.
“I was just looking at it,” he said. “At 8:45 we had a turnover. At 8:22 we had a turnover. At 7:27 we had a turnover, 6:47 we had a turnover, 6:25 we had a turnover, 4:00 we had a turnover.”
And at 2:54, they had a 14-point hole to climb out of.
Notre Dame tore through the coliseum so quickly, the Tar Heels and Tar Heel-heavy crowd had no time at all to cherish a sense of control. It was snatched away as swiftly as it had been stolen.
Eleven points in 68 seconds.
“When a team shoots threes,” Isaiah Hicks said, "a game can be changed really quick.”
They did, and it was. The Irish hit five of nine shots from beyond the arc in the second half. They also made 18 of 21 free throws, compared to UNC making five of seven on the game.
“That run that they made hit us,” Justin Jackson said. “It’s just what killed us.”
There was speculation that it didn’t take much to kill the Tar Heels at that point. UNC was on its fourth game in as many days. Was the team finally hitting a wall?
“It wasn’t anything about being tired from playing four days. That was not a factor in the game. That would just be an excuse,” Williams said.
“They beat our butts. That is the bottom line. They played better than we did and they had a tremendous stretch there that they should be congratulated for.”
They were, and as exactly that was happening on the court of the Greensboro Coliseum, there was a lingering stench of disgust in the UNC locker room.
“They just took control,” Hicks said. “And we let them. They were just on a roll, we couldn’t do anything about it.”
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