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Heel Tough Blog: Notre Dame Recap

Updated: Jan 8, 2023

The San-Diego Union-Tribune

North Carolina entered Saturday’s matchup against Notre Dame needing to take care of business against a struggling Fighting Irish team that had lost each of their first four league games. Notre Dame came into the Smith Center knowing they would have to play physical in order to beat the Tar Heels, but they couldn’t, as the Heels won 81-64. Armando Bacot continued his ACC player of the year caliber season, posting another double-double with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots in another stellar performance as he passed Sam Perkins for second on UNC’s all-time rebound rankings.

UNC allowed the Irish to hang with them early in the game despite Caleb Love starting off red-hot. Love was 3-4 from 3-point land and finished the first half with 13 points. ND tried to slow down Bacot by alternating between a 2-3 and man-to-man defense. Bacot was not deterred though, easily navigating around double teams and finding open teammates. Bacot had 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists in the first half. The rest of the team was fairly quiet in the first half as Love and Bacot provided 25 of their 41 first-half points. Puff Johnson chipped in with 6 points off the bench in the first half as UNC led by 13.

The second half was much more well-rounded in terms of scoring for the Heels. Bacot led with 9, but it was RJ Davis who made the biggest impact, playing stellar defense, and knocking down several contested jumpers to help the Heels hold off the Irish. ND did not go away and with 8:54 left to play had the lead down to just 7 points, but a 12-2 UNC run finished the Irish off. Puff Johnson finished with a season-high 11 points to go along with 6 boards as UNC pulled away to get the victory.

UNC moves to 11-5 and 3-2 in conference play as they chase after undefeated Clemson and Pitt for first place. This was a key win for the Tar Heels as a loss would have put them in a huge hole early in ACC play. Here are a few key reasons UNC secured a convincing 17 point victory.

1. Armando Bacot’s Decision Making Was On Point All Game:

Bacot found himself constantly being double teamed by the Irish, but never once seemed flustered. He found ways to beat it, either dribbling out of it and finding open perimeter players or spinning away from it. He has proved that when you don’t double him, he scores. And now you can’t double him because he is finding ways to beat it anyway. Good luck stopping him now ACC.

2. Seth Trimble Played Lights Out on Both Ends:

From scoring and getting to the foul line, to facing up against the 6-11 Nate Lazewski on the switch and forcing a miss, Seth Trimble made the biggest impact he has made yet this season against ND. Starting in the place of injured Pete Nance, Trimble was consistently making plays on the defensive end and played well offensively despite only scoring 3 points. His presence on the floor enabled the Heels to switch one through five throughout the game, effectively shutting down Lazewski down low and eliminating pick-and-roll threes.

3. UNC Got Good Minutes Off the Bench:

It all started with Puff Johnson’s 11 points, then Jalen Washington came in and played well, and D’Marco Dunn chipped in well on the offensive and defensive ends, scoring 7 points. It was the best bench production of the season for Hubert Davis’s squad. UNC scored 22 bench points, easily their best of the year. The talent is there for the bench group, and today we started to see it on the court.

UNC played well all game and won a key ACC matchup against a team they needed to beat. Up next for the Heels, they will head to Charlottesville to take on the Virginia Cavaliers Tuesday evening.

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