NOTRE DAME, Ind. – In a Top-25 matchup that saw North Carolina lead by as many as nine in the first half and Notre Dame by as many as 11 in the second, the Fighting Irish ultimately won 70-65 on Sunday afternoon. on their home court.
The No. 21 Tar Heels (14-2, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) return home Thursday, hosting Virginia at 6 p.m. notice at Carmichael Arena.
Deja Kelly led UNC with 22 points, his fifth 20-point game of the season. Alyssa Ustby finished with 15 and Kennedy Todd-Williams with 13. 12 as the Tar Heels outrebounded their hosts 45-37.
"We have a lot of fighters," UNC coach said Courtney Banghart. "We may be young, but when you look at people like [Ustby] and [Kelly] you see in their eyes: 'It doesn't matter, we're leaving'. You have to start with who you are, and what we are is a team full of toughness, full of value and really connected, so he gives you a chance every night. We know this was a winnable game, so our kids disappointed, me too."
No. Notre Dame improved to 13-3 (4-1 ACC) in its first home game at Purcell Pavilion in nearly a month. Now 5-0 against Carolina on home court, the Fighting Irish were led by 24 points from Dara Mabrey. Mabrey's total, which included six 3-pointers, marked the most by a Tar Heel opponent this season. Three other Irish players reached double figures and two notched double-doubles, with Maya Dodson with 10 points, 11 boards and Sonia Citron with 12 points and 10 boards off the bench.
The Tar Heels made it to the game with a question mark, knowing they would be without junior guard Eva Hodgson (out due to Covid protocols) and her 11.2 points per game. But Carolina jumped out to an early lead, with Todd-Williams hitting a 3-pointer just 23 seconds into the action. UNC led for the rest of the half and was up as many as nine points midway through the second quarter.
Carolina led by one at the half, 34-33.
Notre Dame took its first lead of the game at 39-37 on an Olivia Miles 3-pointer with 8:18 left in the third quarter, and once the Fighting Irish had the lead, they held it forever. UNC trailed by 11 midway through the third period, but pulled within two on Kelly's 3-pointer with 2:07 left in the third. The Tar Heels kept it in single digits in the fourth and cut the margin to one of three by Carlie Littlefield with 8:17 to play, but Notre Dame scored the next five points to lead 61-55 with 6:22 to play.
A three-pointer by Kelly with 5:29 remaining made it 61-58, but the Fighting Irish scored the next seven points to regain a double-digit lead, 68-58 with 2:43 .
UNC, who won at Boston College after losing by seven with 2:23 left, kept fighting. Kelly hit a 3-pointer and completed his second four-point play of the game with 1:08 remaining to make it a six-point game, 68-62, then Ustby hit a free throw for a five-point margin, but UNC didn't know. approached. After two free throws from Mabrey, Kelly answered with two of his own to put the margin back to five, 70-65, which was raised as the final score.
Notre Dame's 17 free throws and 24 attempts were highs for a UNC opponent this year, as did the Fighting Irish's nine blocked shots. On the other hand, the Tar Heels made a season-low eight free throws and made seven of them, which equates to a season-low.
The Tar Heels, who entered the game leading the ACC in steals, they matched their season low in that category with four.
"Obviously not having Eva forced us to play a little bit differently," Banghart said. "We weren't able to generate as many turnovers as we usually do because we had to conserve bodies and fouls and play more in the zone. We had a good opportunity to improve our zone, which will help us in the future."