For the first time in 2022, Carolina lost, as Notre Dame outscored UNC 78-73 in South Bend. It was another frustrating night for the Tar Heels, as they once again seemed disinterested, and didn’t compete defensively for most of the game, as Notre Dame made 13 triples. Carolina wasted one of the better games of Armando Bacot’s career, as he scored a game-best 21 points, and grabbed 17 rebounds. R.J. Davis and Caleb Love were the only other Tar Heels in double figures scoring, as the team was without Dawson Garcia (concussion), plus Kerwin Walton and Justin McKoy (COVID-19 protocols). AS for Notre Dame Nate Laszewski led the team with 20 points, on 6-7 shooting from behind the arc. Blake Wesley added 18, as he was the best player on the floor for much of the first half.
For the game, Carolina shot 49%, as Notre Dame shot 48%. The main difference in tonight’s defeat was Notre Dame’s outside shooting, as they converted 13-31 attempts, compared to 8-22 for Carolina. Factor in 14 UNC turnovers, which were converted into 19 Notre Dame points, and it is easy to see why this team got beat tonight. After taking a 67-66 lead, Notre Dame went on a 10-3 run, to take back control of the game, before icing the game at the foul line.
For the third time in only fourteen games, Carolina lacked the defensive intensity required to win games at this level. Hubert Davis started the game off switching all the screen action that Notre Dame threw at them, and never adjusted, making it nearly difficult for his team to get consistent stops. As has been the case following losses to Tennessee, Kentucky, and now Notre Dame, it is back to square one for the first year head coach:
Defense: Another frustrating display of effort tonight, as Carolina showed little resistance defensively from the start. At Boston College on Sunday, the Eagles shot just 17% in the first half, that wasn’t the case tonight, as the Fighting Irish scored 39 points, on 47%. Simply put, Mike Brey out-coached Hubert Davis tonight, as once it became apparent Davis wasn’t going to adjust the way they defended ball screen action, Brey made sure that every time they screened Carolina, it put the Tar Heels at a disadvantage. Notre Dame made 13 three-pointers, and many of them were open or uncontested looks, as a team that entered the game shooting 37% from behind the arc, shot 42% tonight. Hubert Davis isn’t at a point in his career, where he can be stubborn, and not make adjustments. It also wouldn’t have hurt to have former assistant Steve Robinson on the bench, to help guide Davis tonight.
Turnovers: Carolina entered the game committing 12 miscues per contest. Tonight they had 14, and with their only being 71 possessions, it felt more like 18. Both Caleb Love and Armando Bacot had 4 turnovers, despite not handing out one assist. Add in that Notre Dame converted those turnovers into 19 points, it only made it that much tougher to win, given the defensive performance.
Limited Rotation: Not playing an extended rotation caught up to Hubert Davis tonight, as Carolina was without Dawson Garcia, Kerwin Walton, and Justin McKoy. That meant, UNC was relying on production from reserves Anthony Harris, D’Marco Dunn, and Dontrz Styles. While Harris scored 5 points, in 18 minutes, the freshmen looked like freshmen, which you would expect given the limited action they’ve seen this season. With COVID still a factor, you’d think this staff would’ve been preparing to have players miss time to the virus, and have every player ready to play. That hasn’t been the case, and tonight, not having Dunn and Stylez as up to speed as possible was costly.
Points in the Paint: Notre Dame had no answer for Carolina inside, as they outscored the Irish, 32-22, which makes you wonder why Carolina still attempted 22 shots from behind the arc. Carolina can play a more modern style of offense all they want, but their best offense is still playing inside-out.
Armando Bacot: The only positive from tonight was that Armando Bacot continues to be the team’s best, most consistent player. He recorded his fifth straight double-double, and his 17 rebounds were a career-high.
Up Next: UNC will look to rebound this Saturday as they host Virginia in their ACC home opener. The game starts at 1 PM on ESPN.