Standing in Carmichael Arena’s makeshift media room, awaiting a postgame interview with NCAA.com, UNC first-year guard Paulina Paris could barely contain her excitement.
"Top-five win, top-five win,” she chanted as she wiggled from side to side.
Paris had every right to celebrate on Sunday night, as the rookie came off the bench to carry the No. 22 UNC women’s basketball team to a 60-50 upset win over No. 4 Notre Dame. Her career-high 16 points led the team and were crucial down the stretch as UNC beat its second top-five team of the season.
Eleven of Paris’ points were scored in the fourth quarter, in which Paris single-handedly outscored Notre Dame over a four-minute period.
“I was just trying to do what I could to help the team win,” Paris said. “When I was open, I drove, I shot and I tried to find my teammates. Once the first shot went in, it was easy from then on.”
After being subbed in for redshirt senior Eva Hodgson with 6:28 remaining in the third quarter, Paris didn’t leave the game. She went on to play a total of 24 minutes — the most for her in a game since UNC’s 93-25 win over South Carolina State on Nov. 16.
Despite the fact that Paris scored UNC’s first 11 points of the final quarter, Banghart admitted after the game that there wasn’t necessarily a plan to find Paris at the end of the game.
“I think the biggest thing with P(aris) is that we trust her,” Banghart said. “She doesn’t go out there and just do her own thing. She goes out there and has a high level of communication with me and throughout the game. She has a high understanding of what we’re trying to do.”
Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey said her team had been “preparing all week” for UNC’s scorers, and she acknowledged that the Fighting Irish lost Paris, especially in transition.