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Sunday January 17th

North Carolina takes down Notre Dame, 66-65, for first ACC win of the season

<p>UNC first year guard Kerwin Walton (24) aims for the basket during a game against Notre Dame in the Smith Center on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021.&nbsp;</p>
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UNC first year guard Kerwin Walton (24) aims for the basket during a game against Notre Dame in the Smith Center on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. 

Just two days after the teams agreed to play one another, a Leaky Black floater with 9.1 seconds remaining gave the North Carolina men’s basketball team a thrilling 66-65 win over Notre Dame.

What happened?

For the second straight game, head coach Roy Williams flashed a new starting lineup, this time with Caleb Love and Leaky Black rejoining the opening rotation. The change allowed the Tar Heels to play with a quicker pace, but the team was sloppy to start, compiling five turnovers in the first five minutes. 

Notre Dame—a team that entered the contest shooting nearly 40 percent from three—came out firing, drilling four of its first five shots from behind the arc. However, the normally poor-shooting Tar Heels countered by making their first three triples to build a 17-14 lead at the under-12 timeout.

Despite the early shooting success, the Tar Heels would cool off tremendously. UNC would finish the half shooting just 31 percent from the field, and over a 5:13 stretch, the team went scoreless, allowing Notre Dame to go on a 12-2 run. Some back-and-forth play ensued in the closing minutes of the half, and eventually, the Fighting Irish entered the break leading, 30-29.

Coming out of the break, the Tar Heels’ offensive struggles continued, as they opened the half missing nine out of their first 13 shot attempts. Meanwhile, Notre Dame forward Nate Laszewski caught fire with 17 second half points, and his seventh triple gave the Fighting Irish their biggest lead, 57-50, with 7:39 to play.

Down seven, the Tar Heels needed someone to step up, and first-year forward Day’Ron Sharpe answered the call. After a Love three cut the deficit to four, Sharpe scored six straight points to give UNC a 59-57 lead with just over four minutes remaining. 

With each team looking for its first ACC win of the season, the final minutes were hard fought. Both teams traded baskets, and a Prentiss Hubb layup gave Notre Dame a 65-64 lead. Coming out of a 30-second timeout, Davis swung the ball to Black on the right wing, who banked in a driving floater over Laszewski with 9.1 seconds remaining to put the Tar Heels up, 66-65.

After a Notre Dame timeout, the Fighting Irish pushed the ball forward, which eventually found the hands of forward Juwan Durham in the short right corner. He had a clean look for the win, but his jumper bounced off the rim, giving the Tar Heels a narrow victory.

Who stood out? 

UNC looked to be in trouble before Sharpe took the game over with his infectious motor. He had nine rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive glass. His 25 points were a career-high, and the highest scoring performance for a Tar Heel this season. 

Despite scoring just eight points, Black was responsible for the biggest shot of the night. Additionally, first-year wing Kerwin Walton continued his hot shooting, making at least three triples for the second consecutive game.

For the Fighting Irish, it was Laszewski, who hit a game-winner against UNC last season in South Bend, who paced the team offensively. The 6-10 junior tied for first in game scoring with a career-high 25 points on 9-14 shooting.

When was it decided?

After Black gave UNC the lead, Notre Dame still had one opportunity to steal a victory. When Durham’s shot hit the iron as time expired, the Tar Heels were finally able to clinch the win. 

Why does it matter?

The win gave UNC its first win in ACC play, as the team is now 1-2 against conference foes. Although the Tar Heels shot only 34.8 percent from the field, their 21-3 advantage on the offensive glass demonstrated a strength that can be built on moving forward. 

When do they play next?

UNC will travel to Miami to face the Hurricanes on Tuesday, Jan. 5. The Tar Heels won the sole meeting between the two teams last season, 94-71, in the team’s largest win of the year.

@nelsonhunter_

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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