The first half of Wednesday’s game against Notre Dame was dreadful. The Tar Heels scored 19 points after shooting 19% from the field. They made just five of their 27 attempts from the floor, missed all 11 of their shots from deep, and failed to record a single assist. They looked like a team that had already packed it in for the season.
It was a bit of a different story after halftime. The Tar Heels shot a much-improved 43% from the field on their way to a 44-point second half. Despite that, the game was close the whole way. Carolina needed to salt the game away with free throws late to come away with the 63-59 victory. UNC finished the game having shot just 9% from long distance, 2-23.
Armando Bacot and Caleb Love led the way for UNC in scoring with 16 points each. Bacot had another double-double, as he does, with 11 rebounds. Pete Nance also had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. RJ Davis joined them in double figures with 12 points.
Luckily for the Tar Heels, Notre Dame is a pretty ineffective rebounding team. Carolina had their way with them on the boards, besting them 52-33 in the category. UNC’s 23 offensive rebounds helped them to 23 second chance points to the Irish’s nine.
Tonight’s game was absolutely not one that UNC could afford to love if you still believe they have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament. Somehow, despite the game on Sunday, Joe Lunardi still had the Tar Heels in the first four teams out before the win. It seems inexplicable that they’d still be that close, but I’m not the one making the bracket. The Heels have been really bad on the road this season, and they simply had to be able to beat one of the ACC’s worst teams if they wanted the rest of the season to have any meaning at all.
Carolina still has two opportunities to pick up the elusive Quad 1 victory the rest of the way: Saturday against Virginia and then the final game of the regular season against Duke. The Blue Devils have apparently played themselves up in the rankings to make that game carry more weight than it did even a week or so ago. Two Quad 1 wins would look pretty good after all this, but it’s difficult to believe those games will go the Heels’ way.
We’ll see what happens against the Cavaliers, who did drop a game against Boston College tonight, on Saturday.