If North Carolina begins to play consistently the way many expected it to when it was ranked No. 1 in the preseason, it could once again have Pitt to thank for reaching that potential.
The Tar Hills’ loss to the Panthers after blowing a nine-point lead in the second half may have been the turning point they needed. Pitt offered a similar jolt of reality last season when it upset Carolina in Chapel Hill. After that loss, the Hills went on a streak that ended just seconds short of winning the national title.
UNC guard Arjay Davis said he “100 percent” can draw parallels between how the team responded after last year’s loss and what happened this season.
“We’re tired of letting teams back in games and not giving 100 percent because we know we’re super talented,” Davis said. “But it’s more important to play with such enthusiasm every night. We lost last year against Pitt and again this year, it’s changed a little bit and it’s kind of a turning point.”
It showed the way the Hills (10-5, 2-2 ACC) closed out their win over Wake Forest on Wednesday. In the final 10 minutes of the game, Carolina shut down the defense, limiting the Demon Deacons to 42 percent shooting from the field and forcing five turnovers.
UNC coach Hubert Davis said he looked at it as a defensive plan that he hopes Hills will continue to follow starting with Saturday’s game against Notre Dame.
He pointed to several reasons why the defense was much better during that stretch, including ball pressure and rotation. Davies cited the example of Caleb Love’s block, in which he came off the weak side of the defense to defend Matthew Marsh’s punt and sure shot. That led to a run and a dunk by Armand Bacote, and Davis called it the “play of the game.”
“That last 10 minutes on defense was probably one of the best, if not the best, stretches of defense we’ve played all year,” Hubert Davis said. “And I hope we can build on that and continue to do that throughout the game.”
Of note, freshman guard Seth Trimble was on the floor during that stretch of defense in place of starting forward Pete Nance.
Nance played just two minutes against Wake before leaving the game with a back injury he suffered in the loss to Pitt. Hubert Davis said Nance was able to train in his time leading up to Wake, so he doesn’t think that will be a big factor moving forward.
“His back has been getting better every day, and while my back has been a problem at times, it’s a day-to-day thing,” Davis said. “So if he feels good enough to play (against Notre Dame), he’ll play, if not, he won’t, but he’s getting better every day.”
Tip-off time + TV channel for Saturday’s game
The game will begin Saturday at 9:00 PM and will be televised on ESPN2.
How to stream UNC vs. Notre Dame online
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If your preferred method of watching games involves streaming, there are options for that as well.
ESPN2 is available on fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV and YouTubeTV. Or click here to view on the ESPN app.
Game day details: UNC vs. Notre Dame
commands: UNC Tar Heels vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Where: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill
Date: Saturday, January 7
Time: 11:30 am
History of the series: The Tar Heels lead the series 27-9 overall. The Fighting Irish won the only meeting last season 78-73 on January 5, 2022 in South Bend, Indiana.
UNC basketball received a wake-up call after its ACC loss against Pittsburgh
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