Notre Dame puts up another fight, but can't close out No. 13 North Carolina

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It happened again.

Matched against another quality Atlantic Coast Conference opponent — this time on the road Tuesday against No. 13 North Carolina — Notre Dame did enough to put itself in position for a win.

Then the Irish couldn’t do enough. Couldn't score enough points. Couldn't get enough stops. Couldn't make enough key plays at critical times. The Tar Heels did all that, which translated into a 75-69 victory at the Dean Smith Center.

"I'm proud of our group," said Irish coach Mike Brey. "We knew we'd get a big punch. We had some clean looks in the second half we couldn't knock down. You've got to make a few more of those to escape."

Notre Dame falls to 11-6, 1-3 in the ACC.

The loss wiped out a monster effort from Irish power forward John Mooney. He tallied his league-leading ninth double for points and rebounds with 16 points and a career-high 19 rebounds. He also had a career-high four blocks in 34 minutes.

Freshman guard Prentiss Hubb matched his career high with 18 points. Sophomore swingman D.J. Harvey added 15.

A Hubb drive gave Notre Dame a 58-57 lead with 6:51 remaining. North Carolina responded with a Coby White 3 and three-point play from Nassir Little to flip it to a 63-58 lead with 5:40 left. The Tar Heels then ran their offense, ran some clock and finished with a Cameron Johnson lay-in to push out to 65-58.

A Little layup allowed the Heels to open a double-digit lead, 69-59, with 1:24 remaining. Prior to that, it was a pretty competitive contest that featured five ties and 17 lead changes. But when the Tar Heels needed a push, they got it. When the Irish needed to get going, they stalled.

Notre Dame let this one get away because it again couldn’t make shots. Prior to a Hubb bucket with 1:16 remaining, the Irish went over five minutes without a field goal. Dane Goodwin finally snapped that run with a free throw to make it 65-59 with 4:15 left.

Notre Dame closed the first half on an 8-0 run, fueled by 3s from Goodwin and Nate Laszewski, to take a 36-33 lead at intermission. A Laszewski 3 from the left of the top of the key just beat the halftime horn. Notre Dame trailed by as many as eight and turned it over 10 times — its 40-minute average — the first half.

Hubb then returned from intermission and connected on a wing 3 to give the Irish their largest lead at 39-33.

"We wanted to control it. Everything was just right for us," Brey said of controlling tempo. "We probably needed another scorer tonight. We could use one more scorer to escape down here."

The Irish found a rhythm by defending late in the half and rebounding. Mooney had nine first-half rebounds. All eight Irish who played in the first half scored.

Three days after winning a league home game against Boston College with only six players, the available Irish rotation was back to eight with the return of Gibbs and Juwan Durham.

Gibbs missed Saturday’s game after falling ill minutes before tip. Durham was ruled out while nursing a sprained ankle he’d first hurt New Year’s Day at No. 9 Virginia Tech. While Brey talked confidently after the Boston College game of having Gibbs back for this one, he was less than optimistic about Durham.

If Durham had to miss a long string of games to be healthy enough for February, Brey said Saturday, he would. Durham practiced well enough Monday to return Tuesday.

North Carolina was coming off a 21-point home loss Saturday to Louisville. It was the most lopsided home loss under coach Roy Williams. After connecting on only three of its 22 attempts from 3 in that loss, Carolina opened by hitting five of its first nine.

Like it did most of Saturday, Notre Dame opened Tuesday in a 2-3 zone. It took Carolina only 12 seconds to figure that one out with a Coby White 3. The Irish then burned a quick timeout and turned it over on their first possession. Notre Dame settled it to make six straight shots, including a banked-in 3-pointer from Hubb, to take an early 16-15 lead.

Tuesday’s game was the second this season for Notre Dame against a ranked team, something that’s about to become common for the Irish. The road test in one of the league’s toughest venues also started a stretch of four of the next five league games against ranked teams. Notre Dame returns to action Saturday at home against No. 17 North Carolina State.

"We need to try and get another league win," Brey said, "'cause they're hard to get."

• No. 13 NORTH CAROLINA 75, NOTRE DAME 69

At Chapel Hill, N.C.

NOTRE DAME (11-6): Mooney 7-12 2-3 16, Laszewski 1-6 0-0 3, Gibbs 1-9 2-2 5, Hubb 6-16 2-3 18, Harvey 5-9 2-4 15, Durham 3-4 0-0 6, Djogo 1-2 0-0 2, Nelligan 0-0 0-0 0, Goodwin 1-3 1-2 4. Totals 25-61 9-14 69.

NORTH CAROLINA (13-4): Maye 6-19 1-3 14, Brooks 2-8 0-3 4, White 6-11 1-2 17, Johnson 3-8 5-7 11, Williams 2-5 0-0 5, Huffman 0-1 0-0 0, Little 5-8 1-1 11, Black 0-3 0-0 0, Robinson 3-4 0-0 9, Woods 0-1 4-4 4. Totals 27-68 12-20 75.

Halftime—Notre Dame 36-33. 3-Point Goals—Notre Dame 10-28 (Hubb 4-10, Harvey 3-5, Goodwin 1-2, Gibbs 1-4, Laszewski 1-5, Djogo 0-1, Mooney 0-1), North Carolina 9-21 (White 4-7, Robinson 3-4, Williams 1-2, Maye 1-5, Johnson 0-3). Fouled Out—White. Rebounds—Notre Dame 33 (Mooney 19), North Carolina 43 (Maye 10). Assists—Notre Dame 13 (Hubb 6), North Carolina 15 (Johnson 6). Total Fouls—Notre Dame 16, North Carolina 15. A—20,475 (21,750).

Notre Dame's TJ Gibbs (10) dribbles the ball while North Carolina's Coby White (2) and Luke Maye, right, defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019.