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UNC excels with three-guard lineup in win over Notre Dame

Toughness was on display in Chapel Hill on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at North Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It isn’t often that you can say a 17-point win felt even less close than the final score would suggest, but UNC showed themselves to be the clearly superior team in their 81-64 win over Notre Dame on Saturday. Even playing short-handed without Pete Nance, Hubert Davis’ three-guard lineup excelled with Seth Trimble getting his first start.

The Irish had no reliable answer for Armando Bacot, who led the Tar Heels in scoring with 21 points and 13 rebounds. He passed Sam Perkins for 2nd place all-time in rebounds. The big man also had four assists. Caleb Love shook off a disappointing game against Wake Forest with an efficient 18 points and just one turnover. RJ Davis and Puff Johnson joined Bacot and Love in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Having Trimble start meant that Leaky Black was effectively playing the four position, but giving up some size did not seem to have any ill effects. Trimble is a strong presence on defense and a capable facilitator on the offensive end. He found his teammates for four assists, finishing just one off the team lead. While his three points aren’t going to jump off the page at you, he does so many little things that make his time in the game very valuable.

As a team, UNC shot 48% for the game and 42% from beyond the arc. They were active on the boards, out-rebounding Notre Dame 45-32, and getting 22 points from a bench that was called on again to chip in some extended minutes. Johnson and D’Marco Dunn were the main beneficiaries of those minutes as bigger leads allowed Hubert Davis to experiment a bit more with his lineups.

Carolina was able to build a very solid lead in the first half, going to the locker room up 41-28 at halftime. They built that lead with a 50% shooting half with 13 of Love’s 18 points coming in the first 20 minutes. Notre Dame, on the other hand, shot just 38% in the first half. That made the difference when the second half was much more even with UNC out-scoring Notre Dame by just four points after halftime.

With the win, the Tar Heels have now won six of their last seven games after the four-game losing streak around Thanksgiving. Hopefully they’ve found something that they can keep rolling when they head to Charlottesville on Tuesday to take on Virginia.