No. 14 North Carolina pulls away late, tops Notre Dame 83-66
By AARON BEARD
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina beat its two biggest rivals, then pulled away late to beat Notre Dame to cap a demanding stretch.
The 14th-ranked Tar Heels are tired. They also might have found a groove.
Theo Pinson scored 14 of his 16 points after halftime to go with 10 rebounds, helping UNC pull away late to beat Notre Dame 83-66 on Monday night for its third win in five days.
Things certainly look different from 10 days ago for the Tar Heels (20-7, 9-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), who were coming off their first three-game losing streak in four years and a win against a winless-in-the-ACC Pittsburgh team before the stretch. But they beat Duke at home on Thursday then won Saturday at North Carolina State in a pair of emotional rivalry games.
This time, UNC needed a 13-0 burst in the final 5 1/2 minutes to finally get some separation against a team that just kept hanging around.
"You could tell we were out there and had a rhythm," Pinson said. "But at the same time, it's still tough recovering so fast, going from game to game. You want to celebrate one win and be like, `Dang, that was a good win for us,' but you've got to get ready for the next game.
"It was a big-time stretch for us."
Martinas Geben and John Mooney each scored 18 points for the Fighting Irish (15-11, 5-8), with Mooney going 6 of 6 from 3-point range. But UNC - which shot 57 percent - later used its clinching run to turn a 67-63 margin into a 17-point bulge near the 2-minute mark.
It didn't help the Irish that point guard Matt Farrell struggled; he scored nine points on 3-for-18 shooting, including 1 for 12 from 3-point range.
"I loved how we fought," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said, "but they had about a three-minute stretch where they were unbelievable offensively. And we certainly couldn't absorb that."
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have been just trying to stay afloat with preseason Associated Press All-American Bonzie Colson sidelined with a broken foot since late December. They had lost seven straight, but they had two high-scoring wins as Farrell returned to health from an ankle problem. Colson has another two weeks in his projected recovery time, which could have him back for the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn.
"If we can keep (the final schedule) around .500, if we can get to eight league wins and be 8-10, that's as good as it gets," Brey said. "And maybe we get Bonz back here ... and we go to Brooklyn with him healthy and see if we can play our way in (to the NCAA Tournament). That's our lot in life. We're very realistic about who we are."
UNC: The Tar Heels have played compact schedules in the ACC Tournament or in the PK80 Invitational earlier this season, but this was the first time they were playing three regular-season league games in a five-day span since February 1991. Simply put, they can take a breath and regroup.
UNC's top scorer Luke Maye struggled to just eight points on 3-for-11 shooting after going for 33 points - 27 after halftime - and 17 rebounds at N.C. State.
"He's played a lot of minutes, a lot of basketball, beaten up himself with a lot of guys," coach Roy Williams said. "If I had to say one guy that needs a rest more than anybody, I'd probably say Luke."
Sounds like Berry was nearly a late addition to the injury report - with a tooth problem, of all things.
Berry said he developed a toothache developed in the afternoon, gave him a headache and ultimately sent him to the dentist for medication. He finished 8 of 15 from the floor while helping defend Farrell in his 33 minutes.
"I honestly think it's my wisdom teeth," the senior said. "I haven't gotten them out yet, so I think it's about time to get them out."
Notre Dame: The Irish visit Boston College on Saturday.
UNC: The Tar Heels visit Louisville on Saturday.
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Updated February 12, 2018