The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday October 19th

Men's hoops goes on record-setting spree in second round ACC Tournament win over Notre Dame

Notre Dame's Nate Laszewski (14) and Carolina's Kerwin Walton (24) battle for a loose ball on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 in Greensboro, N.C. Photo courtesy of Andrew Dye/Winston-Salem Journal.
Buy Photos Notre Dame's Nate Laszewski (14) and Carolina's Kerwin Walton (24) battle for a loose ball on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 in Greensboro, N.C. Photo courtesy of Andrew Dye/Winston-Salem Journal.

Annihilation. There is no other word. Complete and utter annihilation.

Annihilated. That is what the North Carolina men's basketball team did to Notre Dame on Wednesday, trouncing the Fighting Irish, 101-59, the likes of which will probably never be seen in the ACC Tournament again.

But, it still wasn't even that close. The Tar Heels subbed out most of their rotation players with four minutes left in the game and easily could have kept the 50-point lead they had with 2:56 left if they wanted. 

UNC probably could have done a lot of things if it wanted to —  RJ Davis could have somehow kept his plus/minus higher than the 39 he finished with, and both first-year big men Day'Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler could have chased triple-doubles.

"If I wanted to sleep tonight in my bed I probably shouldn't have said anything to coach, so I didn't," Kessler said about whether he thought of asking to stay in. 

But, despite the "coulds," here's a quick rundown of the things the Tar Heels did manage to do: 

  • Most points scored in the ACC Tournament since 1993.
  • Highest margin of victory in the ACC Tournament in school history and second in ACC Tournament history.
  • Fourth-most offensive rebounds in a game in ACC Tournament history.
  • Most combined points scored by first-year players in ACC Tournament history.
  • Highest plus/minus for a player this season (Davis).
  • A career-high in assists for Sharpe (six).
  • Most blocks by a first-year in the tournament in school history (Kessler with eight).
  • And just the fifth time UNC has had three players with double-doubles in the tournament and the first time that's happened since 1963. 

Appreciate the fact that they did all that without Garrison Brooks, who dressed but did not play due to an ankle injury. Also appreciate that UNC's lead was just 12 points with 15:27 left in the game. Notre Dame nearly cut it to 10 before Kessler blocked yet another shot, this time on a jumper from Juwan Durham. The score was 59-47. 

Then, North Carolina went on a 42-4 run. 

Read that again. Let those numbers burn their way into the back of your head. 42-4. 

"We got it inside two or three times in a row, we got some stops, (senior guard) Andrew Platek made the big three in front of our bench. I knew we were on a big run, I didn't look at the score, I don't have any idea what it was," head coach Roy Williams said. "But I knew we were having a very significant run at that point." 

The Hall-of-Famer is, of course, underselling it in classic Williams fashion. The Tar Heels completely took the fight out of the Irish — a team that entered Wednesday's matchup with upset potential after taking down Wake Forest the night before on a buzzer-beater. 

Now, the only question that remains is whether North Carolina can somehow keep some of the same momentum going in Thursday's game against Virginia Tech. It's very unlikely UNC will grab more offensive rebounds than its opponent scores field goals, but the Tar Heels seem to be peaking at exactly the right time to give some trouble to the third-seed Hokies. 

Then again, North Carolina looked poised to turn a corner after wins over Louisville and Florida State this season, but followed up each game with an embarrassing loss. 

"I feel everybody has to stay locked in, stay focused, zoned in and get ready for the next game," Sharpe said. "Keep the same energy, we can't be inconsistent, win one big game and then we lose the next game. You gotta keep it going." 

Another 42-4 run is probably out of the question against Virginia Tech. But if the Tar Heels can find a way to carry over Wednesday's energy? 

Well, then there might be a couple more records they manage to add to the pile. 

@bg_keyes

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com


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