North Carolina looked like it would cruise to victory over Notre Dame on Monday at home in an ACC contest, but the Fighting Irish had other ideas as the second half began.
Despite leading 41-27 at halftime, No. 14 North Carolina needed a game-saving block from point guard Marcus Paige with under four seconds left to preserve a 63-61 win over Notre Dame. North Carolina needed a 7-0 run in the game’s final minutes to give them a five-point lead and held on to beat the Irish on the final possession after Paige missed two of his final three free throw attempts.
Monday’s contest gives North Carolina 12 straight wins in the ACC.
After it looked like Notre Dame would roll over after a mediocre first half, the Irish came out aggressive in the second half, as a 22-5 run gave Notre Dame a 49-44 lead. Notre Dame threw some different defensive looks at the Tar Heels, including a Diamond-and-1 and North Carolina’s offense struggled to adjust for much of the half.
On the defensive end, North Carolina was also worrisome — at times — as its transition defense had multiple breakdowns and the Tar Heel defense struggled on ball screen defense.
Still, North Carolina stepped up when the game was on the line and its 1-3-1 defense created some turnovers and got some stops as James Michael McAdoo (14 points), Brice Johnson (nine points) and Paige (seven points) made plays down the stretch.
North Carolina has to be concerned with its prolonged no-show on both ends of the floor in the second half, though. Notre Dame was depleted, playing without Garrick Sherman, and still gave the Tar Heels a great fight despite falling to 1-8 on the road in ACC play. Against a more talented team, a run like that could have cost North Carolina the game, but maybe this is a wake-up call in the midst of the 12-game winning streak.
No. 15 Cincinnati pounced on Memphis from the start, taking a 51-32 lead into halftime.
Then, Gary Clark decided to add insult to injury to start the second half. Seriously, how did he catch that?
Mick Cronin’s team is much better offensively than in previous seasons. I’m sure fans in the Fifth Third Arena can get used to seeing more plays like this.
Michigan State freshman guard Cassius Winston had just one field goal in the first half. And it was a half-court buzzer-beater as the Spartans capped a sizable run to take a 49-31 lead over Nebraska going into the break.
The Spartans ended the half on a 21-5 run.
Winston provided a serious boost off the bench during that stanza. Moments earlier, he helped the Breslin Center erupt when he lobbed a pass off the backboard to teammate Miles Bridges.
Michigan State opened the day projected as one of the final at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament. The margin for error is thing and it appears the Spartans are playing with a sense of urgency.
Wednesday’s slate of games had several wild results.
Former Ohio State walk-on turned blogger turned author Mark Titus, who is currently writing for The Ringer, joined Rob Dauster on the latest episode of the CBT Podcast to go over last night’s games. The two also discussed who is the best team in the nation at the moment, as well Frank Mason III’s rap single from several years ago #BIFM
You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom
North Carolina’s Roy Williams called fellow Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino to apologize for a fan’s behavior during Wednesday night’s game in Chapel Hill.
While leaving the floor at halftime, Pitino had to be restrained by members of the Louisville coaching staff and he and a UNC fan exchanged words as he made his way to the locker rom. There’s video of Pitino pointing and shouting at a fan, who reportedly said, “Pitino, you suck!”
“I don’t like that,” Williams said, according to the Charlotte Observer. “I mean we’re in North Carolina. We don’t have to be like everybody else. We can raise Cain. You can boo, but you don’t have to say the stuff that we as coaches have to put up with.”
“I hope that never happens at North Carolina ever again.”
No. 8 North Carolina defeated No. 7 Louisville, 74-63.
STILL TO PLAY
Georgia at Alabama (RPI: 68, KenPom: 61, next four teams), 7:00 p.m.
Nebraska at Michigan State (RPI: 43, KenPom: 55, No. 10 seed), 7:00 p.m.
Towson at UNC Wilmington (RPI: 41, KenPom: 57, No. 12 seed), 7:00 p.m.