The North Carolina Tar Heels are now embracing a five-game ACC win streak after defeating Notre Dame on the road by the score of 73-62. Although the Tar Heels came out of the gates flat, they picked up some momentum at the end of the first half that carried them to victory. Now, they are 6-4 in the conference and 16-7 on the season as they enter the most difficult part of their schedule.
Like I said, the Tar Heels began this game looking like the team that began ACC play 0-3. They had absolutely no energy, turnovers haunted them and they could not make a shot to save their lives. Notre Dame went on a quick 10-0 run within the first five minutes of the game, but after a momentum-shifting dunk by J.P. Tokoto in transition, along with Marcus Paige scoring five straight points to end the half, the Tar Heels climbed right back into the game.
Paige finished the game with 16 points and six assists, but it was his sense of urgency that helped the team come out victorious. At the end of the half, he cashed in a tough layup before falling to the floor with an apparent ankle injury. Instead of rolling around in pain, Paige got right back up on his feet and nailed a clutch 3-pointer to lead the Tar Heels towards victory.
As for Tokoto, his athleticism was way too much for the Irish to handle in today’s game. He was all over the court defensively, and he finished with a solid 13 points despite an average shooting day. James Michael McAdoo led the Tar Heels in scoring with 18 points and rebounding with eight, but the most astonishing part of his game was the fact that he was perfect from the line.
That is not a typo, ladies and gentlemen; McAdoo was actually a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line, and the team as a whole shot 76.2 percent from the charity stripe.
I wish I can say that the Tar Heels’ bench finally came through and made an impact on the winning effort, but once again, only Brice Johnson was able to make a difference coming off the bench. He finished the game with 10 points along with three steals and two monstrous blocked shots.
The Tar Heels’ defense looked stellar in today’s game, holding the Irish’s leading scorer Eric Atkins to just 12 points. As a team, they came away with 13 steals and forced 17 Notre Dame turnovers. The team’s defensive game is the sole reason that they were able to come back from a slow start, as Notre Dame began to make too many offensive mistakes as soon as they jumped out to a big lead. If the Tar Heels can continue to show this athleticism on the defensive end, then the rest of their ACC schedule is looking bright.
Although the Tar Heels are currently on a five-game winning streak, it is obvious that the teams they have defeated are not even close to the best in the country. I am not saying that they defeated all bad teams, but they defeated all of the teams that they were supposed to. Now, they take on their bitter in-state rival Duke on Wednesday, and we all know just how much value that game holds.
The Dean Smith Center will have a championship-like atmosphere, and if the Tar Heels can come out with a win, they could quite possibly be ACC championship-bound.