Neither North Carolina nor Notre Dame have lost back-to-back games this season. Saturday night’s primetime showdown in South Bend was sure to end that streak for one team, and when the game was hanging in the balance it was the recent dominance of the Irish in this series that seemed the most apparent in their 80-76 win.
Mike Brey has now won three straight against Roy Williams, taking down the Tar Heels twice last season, in Chapel Hill and then in the ACC tournament title game, and now once in 2016 after the win against No. 2 (for now) North Carolina. The Tar Heels started the week with a loss at Louisville and will now see an even bigger drop in the polls, not to mention the lead lost in the ACC standings against Virginia, winners at Pitt earlier on Saturday.
North Carolina, a very good offensive rebounding team, actually gave up 20 offensive boards to the Irish, including six of them to Bonzie Colson (19 points, 10 rebounds). It was one of just a few areas that stuck out as the reasons the Tar Heels lost, others including points off turnovers (19-0 in favor of the Irish) and free throws made (31-16).
Notre Dame is a really good team with the No. 2 adjusted offensive efficiency rating in the country. When UNC gave the Irish extra chances at easy points with turnovers or poor defensive rebounding, any leverage they had with talent and depth was lost. By the midway point of the second half, what had been a game mostly dominated by the No. 2 team in the country was a downright dog fight. With a decided advantage already established in some of those key areas of the contest, Notre Dame surged with confidence under pressure.
If there is any upside for the Tar Heels, it was a seemingly retro performance from Marcus Paige. The senior guard has as many 3-pointers (5) as he had in the previous six games and finished with a team-high 21 points.
With Oklahoma’s loss just an hour earlier, Saturday marks the seventh time ever that No. 1 and No. 2 lost on the same day. It’s the first time since 2013 (Kansas had a rare home loss to Oklahoma State and Michigan lost at Indiana on Feb. 2) and the first time No. 1 and No. 2 have lost to unranked teams on the same day since January 21, 2006 (No. 1 Duke lost at Georgetown and No. 2 Florida lost at Tennessee).