The losing streak is over thanks to a much needed lift from the defense and the first-year.
No. 22 UNC defeated No. 4 Notre Dame, 60-50, for its first ACC win of the season on Sunday. The Tar Heels jumped out to an early lead, but they found themselves having to climb back in the game following a halftime deficit.
UNC was down as much as eight points in the third quarter, but an excellent stretch of defense and Paulina Paris playing her best basketball of the season pushed the Tar Heels over the top.
The defensive effort started the game on the right foot, holding a high-scoring Notre Dame offense to just seven points in the opening quarter. The Fighting Irish, who were the second-best three-point shooting team in the ACC before Sunday afternoon's game, went 0-5 from downtown in the first quarter with the help of UNC defenders running to contest shots and limiting open looks. UNC finished the quarter with five blocks and Alyssa Ustby had three on her own.
Notre Dame eventually found success down low with its center Lauren Ebo grabbing offensive rebounds for second chance points. A 21 percent shooting effort from UNC also helped the Fighting Irish gain control of the game heading into the second half.
In the third quarter, creating turnovers became the key to the Tar Heels' defense. UNC collected five steals in the quarter, taking away Notre Dame's attempts at the basket while beginning to heat up on the offensive end. A made layup by Paris with under three minutes left in the period gave UNC its first lead since midway in the second.
With the momentum swinging and the home crowd getting more into the game, Paris wasn't done.
She started the closing period scoring 11 straight points including two-made three-pointers. During Paris' run, the Tar Heels found themselves up eight points which was their largest lead of the game.
Paris finished the game with a career high 16 points, shooting an efficient 6-9 from the floor and 75 percent from beyond the arc.
She was by far the Tar Heels' most dangerous offensive weapon, having the best night of any of her teammates while coming off the bench and playing less minutes than three starters.
Destiny Adams also had a solid night off the bench with seven points and four rebounds.
With the win, UNC now moves to 10-5 overall and 1-3 in conference play. The Tar Heels have now beaten three top-25 opponents with Notre Dame being its second win against a top-five team.
This win should give UNC confidence and validation that its still an elite team despite its recent struggles. The Tar Heels should move up in the next AP poll with plenty of games left to get back on track.