No. 13 Notre Dame holds off No. 18 North Carolina for huge ACC road win

source: AP

Notre Dame nearly collapsed and blew a big second half lead before rallying and coming away with a really good 71-70 ACC road win at North Carolina on Monday night.

The No. 13 Fighting Irish led for much of the game but gave up a 9-0 run to the No. 18 Tar Heels in the game’s final minutes and trailed 70-69 with just over a minute left. But junior big man Zach Auguste stopped the bleeding and cleaned up a Pat Connaughton¬†miss and had the go-ahead putback with 1:08 left to put the Fighting Irish ahead.

On the ensuing North Carolina possession, point guard Marcus Paige missed two 3-pointers and J.P. Tokoto had two offensive rebounds before head coach Roy Williams called a timeout to draw up another look. Out of the timeout, Paige missed a contested look near the rim and Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia grabbed a defensive rebound and was fouled. Vasturia missed both free throws and North Carolina had a final shot with 1.4 seconds left. Paige missed a heavily-contested look from the left corner as time expired.

Auguste had a monster second half as he scored 14 of his team-high 18 points in the final 20 minutes. The junior also added six rebounds and two blocks and at one point had eight consecutive points for the Irish in the second frame. Senior guard and All-American candidate Jerian Grant struggled shooting the ball for much of the night, going 1-for-8 from the field, but he eight points, eight assists and four rebounds before fouling out towards the end of the game.

Others picked up the slack for Notre Dame’s offense with Grant struggling to find his shot. When North Carolina went with a big lineup to start the game, Irish forward Pat Connaughton (16 points) hurt them from the perimeter, knocking down four 3-pointers and giving Brice Johnson a tough time on the offensive end. Demetrius Jackson also added 15 points and four assists.

The Tar Heels finally made a second-half run when they went small and put Justin Jackson at the four. North Carolina continued to pound the offensive glass, out-rebounding Notre Dame, 43-26, with 18 offensive rebounds, and wore down the limited Irish rotation. Marcus Paige led the Tar Heels with 15 points, but cooled down significantly in the second half. After starting the game 4-for-6, Paige finished just 6-for-17 from the field.

But Kennedy Meeks and Tokoto provided a second-half lift on the offensive boards for North Carolina as they combined for nine offensive rebounds and 24 points in the game. Freshman wing Theo Pinson also played some of his best ball of the season with seven points and some hustle plays off the bench to help keep the Tar Heels in the game.

North Carolina’s big issue, though, continues to be getting enough perimeter shooting. The Tar Heels were 4-for-16 from distance in this one and if it weren’t for their success on the offensive glass, this game wouldn’t have been so close. Paige’s struggles continued in the second half after a strong first half and that certainly didn’t help. And why did it take Williams so long to find the proper line-up and defense to slow down Notre Dame’s offense? North Carolina was very sloppy defending high ball screens in the first half, as they differed in their approach nearly every time the Irish set a pick.

As for Notre Dame, their limited rotation almost came back to bite them on Monday night. The Fighting Irish looked completely gassed by the end of the game and weren’t even pursuing rebounds or closing out on shooters during that stretch of two Paige missed 3-pointers in the game’s final minute. Notre Dame was able to hold on and get it done and they deserve a lot of credit for spacing the floor well and moving the ball as North Carolina tried to change defensive looks.

The Irish need more consistency from their bench if they want to be legitimate ACC contenders, but this win on the road is a huge confidence booster at the beginning of conference play.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

Getty Images

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.