Irish shooting woes helps No. 22 North Carolina upset No. 4 ND

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent
Dec 4, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish center Lauren Ebo (33) signals her teammates in the second half against the Connecticut Huskies at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

At the same time a pair of streaks were vanishing into thin air, so was No. 4-ranked Notre Dame’s shooting touch.

No. 22 North Carolina snapped its four-game skid as well as ND’s six-game winning string with a 60-50 women’s basketball victory over the ice-cold visiting Irish on Sunday evening at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill, N.C.

ND made just 16-of-57 from the field for by far its worst percentage of the season at 28.1, and the Irish were far more woeful on 3-pointers at 2-of-22 for 9.1.

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Notre Dame (12-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed just 40-38 early in the fourth quarter on a day it also owned an eight-point second-period lead, but the Tar Heels (10-5, 1-3) ruled after that.

Freshman guard Paulina Paris, averaging 5.4 points entering the contest, struck for a career-high 16 for the winners, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Junior star Deja Kelly added 14, but was just 4-of-16 from the field.

For the Irish, Olivia Miles netted a team-high 15 points to accompany a team-high five assists and seven rebounds, but also committed five turnovers. Sonia Citron added 13 points.

Lauren Ebo grabbed 19 rebounds — the most by an ND player in nearly 10 years — to go with seven points and three steals.

The Heels beat the Irish for the third consecutive time in Chapel Hill over the last five years and improved to 7-1 at home this season.

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► The Irish, who entered among the nation’s premier shooting teams on the season at 49.8%, didn’t even flirt with their previous low of 42.6 at Virginia Tech.

Nevertheless, concern about shooting seemed minimal afterwards, particularly relative to the defensive effort.

“I think we have great shooters,” ND coach Niele Ivey said. “(Shots) just didn’t fall tonight. I thought we had some good looks.”

Dara Mabrey finished 3-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-11 from distance, while Ebo and Maddy Westbeld each closed at 2-of-10.

“I think every shot we took was with confidence,” Ebo said. “It really wasn’t our night offensively, but the more we turned it up on defense, the more shots started to fall, but we were too lax on defense. I think the defense is really the biggest issue here.”

To Ebo’s point, Carolina was barely better than ND with its first-half shooting, but in the second half, the Heels went 11-of-24 from the field, including 5-of-6 on 3s, while the Irish continued to labor at 8-of-27 and 1-of-11.

“Defensively, I didn’t feel like we came out with the toughness I wanted,” Ivey said.

Paris in particular riddled ND, both on drives and from distance. She was 4-of-5 from the field in the closing quarter, including making both her 3s.

“We lost her, especially in transition,” Ivey said. “We just didn’t do a good job containing her. She got whatever she wanted. She got to the rim, she made wide-open looks. She was really a big momentum booster for them.”

► Turnovers, a recent issue for the Irish, remained one.

ND finished at 19, including 11 in the second half, as the hosts outscored the Irish 38-25 after trailing 25-22 at the break.

“I feel like we kind of fell apart taking care of the ball,” Ivey said. “Just didn’t play our style of game, but North Carolina played really well.”

It was the fourth straight outing in which ND committed more turnovers than its opponents. The Irish are averaging 19.3 over that span while the opposition is at 15.5.

► The loss took some luster off Ebo’s board work, but her 19 rebounds were the most by any ND player since Natalie Achonwa grabbed 20 against South Florida in March 2013.

“I thought her presence was amazing,” Ivey said of Ebo. “I thought she came out with the right intensity.”

Ebo shattered her previous career high of 14 rebounds, notched last season for Texas against Oklahoma.

The grad student center hauled in seven of her 19 boards on the offensive end.

Who's hot

Miles’ 5-of-9 for 56% qualifies on a day that no other Irish player landed at better than Citron’s 4-of-11 for 36%.

Who's not

Mabrey’s1-of-11 from long range included a trio of air balls. She’s 3-of-20 outside the arc over her last three games.

Worth noting

With Florida State also losing Sunday, the rugged ACC is already down to just one unbeaten, No. 19 Duke at 4-0.

ND’s joined by the Seminoles (4-1) and Louisville (4-1) as once-beatens.

Up next

The Irish host Wake Forest (11-6, 2-4) at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The Demon Deacons edged Georgia Tech 51-50 on Sunday.

No. 22 North Carolina 60, No. 4 Notre Dame 50NOTRE DAME (12-2): Watson 0-1 0-0 0, Westbeld 2-10 0-0 4, Citron 4-11 4-5 13, Mabrey 3-15 0-0 7, Miles 5-9 5-6 15, Ebo 2-10 3-4 7, Bransford 0-1 4-6 4, Prosper 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 16-57 16-21 50NORTH CAROLINA (10-5): Poole 1-2 0-0 2, Hodgson 0-4 0-0 0, Kelly 4-16 5-6 14, Todd-Williams 3-12 2-2 9, Ustby 5-10 1-2 12, Adams 2-4 2-2 7, Paris 6-9 1-2 16, Key 0-2 0-0 0, Zelaya 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 21-59 11-14 60

Notre Dame718916— 50
North Carolina1391721— 60

3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 2-22 (Westbeld 0-3, Citron 1-4, Mabrey 1-11, Miles 0-4), North Carolina 7-16 (Hodgson 0-4, Kelly 1-3, Todd-Williams 1-3, Ustby 1-1, Adams 1-1, Paris 3-4). Assists_Notre Dame 7 (Miles 5), North Carolina 13 (Hodgson 3, Kelly 3). Fouled Out_North Carolina Adams. Rebounds_Notre Dame 42 (Ebo 19), North Carolina 34 (Poole 8). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 21, North Carolina 18. Technical Fouls_None. A_3,976.