Second Half Rally Caps Notre Dame Win Over North Carolina
Notre Dame (16-10) has come up short on comeback attempts all season, with seven of its 10 losses coming by five points or less. It seemed that would happen again against North Carolina (10-16), but this time the Irish battled all the way back and got a much-needed win.
After trailing by as much as 15 in the second half, the Irish beat North Carolina 77-76 after sophomore Nate Laszewski’s last second three-pointer capped off an epic comeback.
North Carolina jumped out to an early 13-8 lead, but Notre Dame stormed back, going on a 14-2 run to take a 22-15 lead. The Irish lead grew to as high as nine (31-22) as the Irish balanced offense heated up.
Notre Dame missed four of its final five shots of the half, which allowed North Carolina to claw back, but the Irish took a 36-33 lead into halftime.
After senior forward John Mooney got the second half started with an alley-oop layin on an entry pass from Rex Pflueger, the Irish offense went ice cold. Notre Dame would go over five minutes without a basket as a 13-0 Tar Heel run put North Carolina in control.
Notre Dame struggled to make stops on defense and North Carolina took command of the game, or so it seemed. At one point North Carolina outscored Notre Dame 40-16, and grew its second half lead to 62-47 with just 9:09 left in the game.
Sophomore Prentiss Hubb came into the came struggling on the offensive end, but he scored eight straight points for the Irish and 12 of 15 total points to help cut the lead to single digits. Hubb had help, as senior guard TJ Gibbs knocked down three triples during that hot Hubb stretch, and his last triple made it a 73-67 game in favor of the road team.
The Notre Dame defense picked up late, and the Irish kept chipping away at the Carolina lead. Pflueger made the big defensive play of the game, tipping and stealing a pass from Leaky Black. North Carolina did not get back in transition and Hubb found Laszewski open on the right wing for a triple that made it a 73-70 game.
Like we’ve seen in the past, the valiant comeback looked like it would come up short as the Irish looked to wear down after the Laszewski triple. His shot came at the 3:20 mark, and the Irish wouldn’t get another basket for almost three minutes, but the defense continued to force bad shots by North Carolina.
After a Mooney free throw to make it 76-72, North Carolina big man Armando Bacot committed an offensive foul on a screen near mid-court. Gibbs answered with a runner to make it 76-74 with 0:47 left in the game.
North Carolina star freshman guard Cole Anthony missed a triple and the officials ruled the ball went out of bounds off Laszewski. The officials reviewed the play and it was clear the ball went off a North Carolina player, so the Irish got the ball.
Mooney missed a shot at the rim that would have tied the game, but Pflueger came down with the offensive rebound, kicked it out to Laszewski, and the sophomore big man knocked down the triple with under two seconds remaining to give the Irish the lead and the win.
North Carolina’s desperation heave from half court wasn’t close and the Irish comeback was complete.
Hubb finished the game with 20 points and eight assists. Laszewski scored 11 points off the bench, and Mooney had another double-double, scoring 13 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Gibbs chipped in 14 points. Pflueger had just three points, but he grabbed six rebounds, dished out five assists and came up with three steals and a block in the win.
Notre Dame will get much-needed rest and won’t have to play again until Sunday against Miami (13-12).