The Tar Heels picked up a much-needed victory over Notre Dame on Saturday, 66-65. They managed to pick up their first conference win of the season after dropping two straight (NC State Georgia Tech). This one seemingly had all the indicators of another deflating ending but this time the Heels were able to close it out. The only reason they were even in a position to do such was because of the play from freshman phenom Day’Ron Sharpe.
Sharpe posted 25 points and nine rebounds on 9-19 shooting and 7-9 from the free throw line. He became the first Carolina player all season long to break the 20-point mark, which tells you all you need to know about this team’s scoring deficiencies.
Still, Sharpe was fantastic in this one. In addition to his NBA-level frame/athleticism, he brings tons of energy to the floor and plays with a high motor. The Heels suffered another abysmal shooting day (34.8%) but many of those misses were pulled down by Sharpe, who was just an absolute handful to deal with under the rim. The Fighting Irish simply did not have anybody who could match the physicality and toughness of Sharpe, who could’ve had 30 were it not for some point-blank misses.
For the second game in a row, Roy Williams decided to deviate from the starting lineup that we’ve seen the majority of the season. In both of those games, perhaps the most significant substitution he’s made has been Sharpe for Garrison Brooks. Granted, both players still notched 29 minutes, but it doesn’t look like Sharpe is giving up that starting position any time soon. It’ll be interesting to see how that situation develops moving forward.
Not that anybody actually gave Sharpe a run for his money, but if there’s an honorable mention for player of the game, Kerwin Walton gets the nod. He’s another guy who has benefited from the new-look starting lineups as he put together another solid shooting performance. Walton scored 12 points, all of which came from behind the three-point line, and added three assists. He didn’t even attempt a single two-pointer, finishing 4-8 from beyond the arc.