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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC men's basketball beats Notre Dame, 83-76, in Greensboro

Forward Kennedy Meeks (3) guards Steve Vasturia (32) of Notre Dame as he drives to the basket. 

Forward Kennedy Meeks (3) guards Steve Vasturia (32) of Notre Dame as he drives to the basket. 

After moving its game to Greensboro due to the Chapel Hill water crisis, the North Carolina men's basketball team picked up a signature win with an 83-76 victory over Notre Dame in the Greensboro Coliseum on Sunday.

What happened?

After No. 20 Notre Dame scored the game's opening points, No. 12 UNC (21-4, 9-2 ACC) shot out to a 9-2 lead and commanded the game for much of the first half. The Fighting Irish (17-7, 6-5 ACC) kept it close — twice coming within a point off a Rex Pflueger 3-point shot — but the Tar Heels took an eight-point lead into halftime.

The second half turned into a battle between two ranked ACC schools that met three times last season — including in the ACC and NCAA Tournament. After pushing the lead to 15 points with 12:07 left, the Tar Heels watched their lead slip away after allowing countless free throws and 3-pointers.

But when Notre Dame pulled within two points with 3:47 to go, North Carolina went on a 7-0 run to bury the Fighting Irish's good fortune.

Who stood out?

After a disappointing three-game stretch, Kenny Williams played inspired in a new venue.

The sophomore shooting guard finished with 11 points — including eight in the first half — to best his total of seven points in the previous three games combined. Williams led the charge from beyond the arc with three 3-pointers and fought through an ankle injury in the second half to stay on the court.

UNC's stable of big men also impressed Sunday. Kennedy Meeks (11 points and eight rebounds) grabbed four rebounds in the opening minutes and imposed his will inside before succumbing to foul trouble, while Isaiah Hicks (14 points) and Tony Bradley (12 points) used their length to overwhelm an undersized Notre Dame frontcourt.

When was it decided?

After securing a sizable lead midway through the second quarter, the Tar Heels seemed on their way to an easy win over a top-20 opponent. But Notre Dame fought back to cut the lead to a basket.

North Carolina answered with a Joel Berry jumper to create some breathing room. And when a Nate Britt steal created a 3-on-1 fast break, Justin Jackson finished with a breakaway dunk to put the proverbial exclamation point on the Elite Eight rematch.

Why does it matter?

After six of the teams ranked ahead of North Carolina lost on Saturday, a win on Sunday gave the Tar Heels a crucial opportunity to vault up the national polls.

The last time UNC was in that position was a week ago, when an ugly loss to Miami mirrored a bevy of upsets across the country. But beating a top-20 team in Notre Dame keeps the Tar Heels atop the ACC standings and buoys their hope for a top seed come tournament time.

Where do they play next?

The Tar Heels clash with No. 21 Duke at 8 p.m. on Thursday in Durham.

The matchup marks the second game in UNC's brutal season-ending stretch featuring six bouts against ranked opponents in the final eight contests — culminating in a March 4 regular-season finale at home against the Blue Devils.


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