I can’t tell you what yesterday’s win over Notre Dame will do for the Tar Heels, but I can tell you that the win will go a long way for this young team this season. Entering the game at 5-4 overall, and 0-2 in the ACC, Carolina’s season was basically on the line. If they fell to 5-5, and 0-3 in league play, it would’ve been hard to imagine them regrouping and making the NCAA tournament. Late in the second half it looked like that was going to happen, as they trailed the Fighting Irish, 57-50. A quick 9-0 run, gave Carolina the lead, as it was shaping up to be a close finish inside the Smith Center. Ultimately, Leaky Black lifted the team with a layup with 9 seconds left to propel Carolina to a much needed 66-65 victory.
If you look at the stats, you’d find it hard to believe that Carolina won the game. They shot just 35% from the field, compared to Notre Dame’s 47%. They allowed the Fighting Irish to connect on 11 three pointers, while they shot 35% from behind the arc. Carolina made up for that bad shooting, by grabbing 21 offensive rebounds, and converting that into 18 second chance points. Add in only committing 8 turnovers, and the formula for success is right in front of their faces.
Day’Ron Sharpe: Second consecutive start for the freshman, and he delivered with a career high 25 points, and 9 rebound performance. Notre Dame simply had no answer for the physical specimen, who’s quickly become the best player on the roster for Roy Williams. He was 9-19 from the floor, but a more impressive 7-9 from the charity stripe. To begin the season, Sharpe got most of his points and rebounds, off of his energy, he’s now using post moves to get points, or fouls. While the development of Caleb Love and R.J. Davis appears to be taking a little longer than expected, Sharpe is blossoming in front of our very eyes.
Lineup Change: Roy Williams rolled out a different starting 5 again yesterday, going with Love, Walton, Black, Bacot and Sharpe. The decision to move Walton into the starting lineup was almost necessary after his shooting performance at Georgia Tech Wednesday night. He responded with 12 points, on 4-8 shooting from behind the three point line. Of the starters, only Caleb Love had a negative point differential while on the court.
Inside Dominance: When playing Notre Dame, the style of play is so different which usually creates an interesting game. The smaller Fighting Irish couldn’t keep Carolna off the glass, and was worn down by the Tar Heels size and strength. Grabbing 21 offensive rebounds in a conference game is absurd, but it fueled their offense with 18 second chance points. While it’s uncommon to see teams play with two primary bigs, this is why Carolina does so. No team in the country can match their front court, and it proved it can withstand a great shooting night from the opponent.
Turnovers/Free Throws: Maybe the best combined performance for Carolina in both departments yesterday. Carolina committed a season low just 8 turnovers, After turning it over 5 times in the first 5 minutes, they settled down and valued the basketball much better. They converted 71% from the foul line, not great, but you can live with that number especially when Day’Ron Sharpe went 7-9 on his attempts. If Carolina can build off this performance, they can be competitive in the ACC.
Roy Williams: I was very critical of the Hall of Fame head coach, after losing at Georgia Tech Wednesday night, and rightfully so. He did a much better job helping his team late in yesterday’s game, calling two timeouts to get what he wanted from his group. He’s going to have to do one of his better coaching jobs, if he wants to get this team where he thinks it can go.