The North Carolina men's basketball team (11-5, 3-2 ACC) bested Notre Dame (8-8, 0-5 ACC) 81-64 on Saturday afternoon at the Dean E. Smith Center in their fifth conference game of the season.
North Carolina began the game hot, winning the tip and immediately taking the ball down the court to score on an open three pointer from junior guard Caleb Love. They continued this first-minute momentum, forcing a turnover on defense and following up with a dunk from senior guard Armando Bacot to lead 5-0.
However, Notre Dame was quickly able to find an answer and steadily creeped closer to UNC, who hit a dry spell after the initial minutes of the game. A combination of factors, including multiple missed free throws and an inability to capitalize on second chance scoring opportunities, led to a score of 10-8 in North Carolina's favor by the first media time out.
UNC remained cold following the time out, which allowed Notre Dame to take a 13-10 lead for the first time with 13 minutes left in the first half. The Tar Heels responded with strong defensive efforts from Bacot and first-year forward Seth Trimble that forced multiple turnovers from Notre Dame.
Using the defensive momentum, multiple UNC players began to capitalize on the offensive end as well, beginning with a three from junior guard RJ Davis to tie the game once more. From there, junior guard Puff Johnson was able to sink a three, followed in quick succession by a one handed dunk from Love that gave North Carolina its biggest lead of the game 22-18 with just over eight minutes remaining.
From there, the Tar Heels continued to dominate, stretching the lead to 13 with a score of 41-28 by halftime.
Bacot opened the second period with a strong drive into the paint for a layup, for the first points of the half. North Carolina and Notre Dame then continued to trade points back and forth throughout the early minutes of the second period, allowing UNC to maintain a 14 point lead by the 14 minute mark.
Notre Dame attempted a comeback after North Carolina starters Bacot and graduate forward Leaky Black had been taken out of the game, and were able to cut the deficit to seven with just over eight minutes remaining, before UNC was once again able to pull ahead by a double-digits margin.