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Final Four Bound: UNC 88 Notre Dame 74

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame's offense was good, UNC's was better as the Tar Heel beat the Irish 88-74 and are headed to the Final Four.

If you watched the Virginia-Syracuse game which was riddled with poor shooting and turnovers, the first half of this game was the complete opposite. UNC and Notre Dame both brought their "A" games shooting the basketball. Marcus Paige for a second straight game hit his first two threes and UNC hit 4-of-6 beyond the arc in the first half. The real damage was done on the interior by Brice Johnson. With Zach Auguste out of the game with two early fouls, Johnson feasted with Bonzie Colson guarding him scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

For much of the half both teams traded points until an 8-0 run by UNC starting at the 7:02 mark gave the Tar Heels the first bit of breaking room with a six point edge. Notre Dame, which methodically burned an average of 26 seconds per possession, cut the lead to 39-38 with 2:11 remaining in the half. A pair of Joel Berry free throws and a Justin Jackson layup gave the Heels a five point edge at the break. For the half UNC shot 64% and had an offensive efficiency of 154.7 while "holding" Notre Dame to 58% shooting and an OE of 140.7. Heading into the second half this game appeared to be one decided by which offense would blink first.

To open the second half, UNC keep its offense going thanks to Kennedy Meeks. The junior struggled in the first half and only played four minutes. In the second he became an immediate factor exploiting Notre Dame's lack of size. Meeks scored UNC's first eight points of the half as part of an 8-2 run coming of the locker room to run the lead to 11 points by the first media timeout.

Then it turn a sudden and alarming turn. UNC broke up a Notre Dame pass and Meeks tried to dribble up court but had the ball stolen by Demtrius Jackson who eventually scored on a layup. That play kicked off a 12-0 run to take the lead back with a technical foul on Brice Johnson for flipping the ball over his shoulder after a foul call. After a forgettable three minutes UNC showed some poise and toughness with a 12-0 run. Theo Pinson was the catalyst getting a steal and timeout to keep possession after Paige had put UNC back up by one. Pinson began attacking the basket on the offensive end with four points and an assist to Isaiah Hicks on an alley-oop coming from a Meeks outlet pass.

Once UNC had established its 10-12 point advantage it came down to finishing the game off with offensive execution. Notre Dame, led by Demetrius Jackson continued to hit tough shots but the Irish had no answer at the other end. UNC scored at will matching every Irish shot with one of its own to keep control of the game. Johnson returned to the game following his technical foul and score in the high post against the Irish zone then again on the block to keep UNC's offense rolling. Notre Dame turned to fouling to try and extend the game but UNC was sufficient there to send the Tar Heels to Houston for the Final Four.

Brice Johnson led UNC with 25 points and 12 rebounds for his 23rd double-double of the season breaking a UNC single season record. Marcus Paige had 13 points, Justin Jackson and Joel Berry 11 apiece and 10 points from Kennedy Meeks, all in the second half. Theo Pinson's stat line of six points and four assists didn't look like much but his second half play was the spark to UNC's response after Notre Dame had taken an early second half lead.