- It looked for a while, even late into the game, that the Tar Heels could have let this one get away from them. Notre Dame always seemed to hang around, occasionally hitting some shots and getting some stops that they could have squeaked out an ugly win in Chapel Hill, but a Carolina team that showed no real signs of any physical fatigue stayed strong down the stretch and pulled out what came to be a solid win.
- Carolina often took advantage of Notre Dame missing shots tonight, despite being hurt by John Mooney going 6-6 from 3 point land. Some forced, tough shots by ND guards in the first half went for long rebounds which allowed the UNC transition game to get going and stay strong throughout the entire game. The transition offense was key to the Tar Heels’ success in these 3 games, and has really showed just how much they rely on it to get easy buckets without having to grind it out in the half court.
- Two concerns on defense, one more than the other: the ball screen defense tonight was not good. It wasn’t good in the first game against ND where Gibbs sliced and diced all over South Bend. Tonight, especially in the 2nd half where Geben played a lot more minutes than he did in the 1st due to foul trouble, he got just about whatever he wanted. What’s concerning is how this contrasts to great ball screen defense on Saturday in Raleigh… the ND big men either had a pick-and-pop opportunity or an easy look (often a dunk). The second concern is the 3 point defense, which was only partly there. ND did not shoot the ball well as a team due in part to some good closeouts, but the concern was how Mooney could go 6-6. After a guy hits 2 or 3 in a row, the defense needs to tighten up and whoever is guarding that guy has to take it upon himself to stop his man from hitting another jumper.
- Another key to this stretch, which might fly under the radar because he hasn’t put up any notable stats, is having Seventh Woods back. He has played the role of coming in around the middle of each half for 3-4 minutes, playing some solid defense, not turning the ball over, and most importantly giving Joel Berry a break that’s longer than just 30 seconds of gameplay and a media timeout. This play from him has been better than Felton’s was in the same role during Woods’s injury, and has played an important part in keeping Berry fresh at the end of games.
- As mentioned earlier, ND was hanging around to the point that it was a bit uncomfortable, even getting the lead to 1 in the 2nd half. A key stretch was when Mooney got fouled and missed all three FTs, to which Carolina immediately responded with a Pinson bucket. The Heels went on a small run to force a ND timeout, but it did nothing to stop the Carolina push. The Heels scored 13 points going into the under-4 media timeout, which didn’t even truly happen on a dead ball as Brey called his last timeout, putting the game essentially out of reach.
What a way to end this 5-day stretch. The Tar Heels put together an always-emotional win against Duke, a revenge-win against NC State, and not the prettiest but we’ll all sure take it win tonight against Notre Dame. Credit to the training staff for keeping everyone in good shape and to the players for not letting anything divert their focus on this stretch. As always, a welcome day off for the guys tomorrow and a couple good days at practice will have them ready for a road matchup on Saturday in Louisville.