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Notre Dame Basketball

UNC Dominates Notre Dame on the Glass, Irish Drop Another Close ACC Contest

February 22, 2023
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Notre Dame squandered multiple late-game opportunities in a 63-59 loss to North Carolina on Wednesday night. If only the Irish could hold onto the ball. 

Tar Heel guard Leaky Black missed two shots in the game’s final 12 seconds with a 59-58 lead, but Notre Dame failed to corral the rebound. On both occasions, the ball instead hit off the hands of a Fighting Irish player before bouncing out-of-bounds.

Black’s second miss hit the rim, resetting the shot clock and forcing Notre Dame to foul going forward. In the final six seconds, guard Caleb Love made four free throws to JJ Starling’s one, and North Carolina (17-11, 9-8 ACC) picked up a 63-59 victory. 

Wednesday’s defeat marks Notre Dame’s (10-18, 2-15) seventh ACC loss of the season by five points or fewer. 

“How many squirted through our hands? Two or three there at the end?” coach Mike Brey said. “I feel for our guys because we keep getting into position, but we can't finish.”

The Irish failed to eclipse 60 points for the second time this season and have now lost six straight contests.

Cormac Ryan led the Irish with 14 points to go along with seven rebounds. Trey Wertz and Starling came off the bench to score 13 and 10 points, with the latter playing 14 minutes in the second half after Marcus Hammond went down with an injury.

“[Starling has] grown up,” Brey said. “I give him a lot of credit. He’s really hung in there, and he gave us a lift and got us going. I don't know when Marcus will be back. It's a sprained toe. I doubt we'll have him Saturday.”

Notre Dame’s leading scorer Nate Laszewski added just four points on 1-of-5 shooting. He entered Wednesday having averaged 24.3 points over Notre Dame's prior to four home games.

Caleb Love and Armando Bacot led North Carolina in scoring with 16 points apiece.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

North Carolina won despite missing 21-of-23 3-point attempts. The Tar Heels overcame poor shooting from deep by outrebounding the Irish by 19 boards, including a 23-8 margin on the offensive glass. Those lead to 23 second-chance points. 

Three different North Carolina players grabbed double-digit rebounds: Bacot (11), Black (11) and Pete Nance (10).

“They've got athletic ability at every position, and that's hurt us at times, not only in this game,” Brey said. “[We haven't] been able to get that key defensive rebound when four athletes are going to the backboard on the other team. “

HIGHLIGHT REEL

Ven-Allen Lubin came up with a monstrous block in the second half. 

BIG PICTURE

Brey has just three regular-season ACC contests in his final season at Notre Dame:

Feb. 25 — at Wake Forest

March 1 — Pitt

March 4 — at Clemson

The Irish need to win at least one of those in order to tie the program’s fewest ACC victories in a season. The 2018-19 team went 3-15 in league play. 

Unfortunately for Notre Dame, all three remaining opponents sit in the top half of the ACC, with the Panthers challenging for the conference’s regular-season crown with a 13-4 record. 

Notre Dame’s best chance for a victory will likely come on Saturday. 

WHAT’S NEXT?

Notre Dame travels to Winston-Salem on Saturday to take on Wake Forest (17-10, 9-7 ACC) at 7 p.m. on the ACC Network.

Demon Deacons junior guard Damari Monsanto scored a career-high 28 points against the Irish on Feb. 4, leading Wake Forest to an 81-64 victory. 

Notre Dame struggled to find a rhythm offensively that afternoon, shooting 38% from the field and missing 17 of 21 3-point attempts. 

“Let's go to Winston Salem and get into position again,” Brey said. “Maybe I can help them better, and maybe we can get over the hump. [We'll] keep competing. It will be an unbelievably great road atmosphere.”

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