These wins are precious, so they aren’t taken for granted.
If nothing else, North Carolina’s loss to Louisville Saturday showed that.
UNC’s 75-69 win over Notre Dame Tuesday night wasn’t pretty. But Roy Williams was good with that.
“I got my wish,” Williams said after the game. “I wanted to win one ugly.”
A game after shooting 34.5 percent from the field, the Tar Heels (13-4, 3-1 ACC) again looked out-of-synch against the Irish (11-6, 1-3 ACC) on offense. UNC posted a 39.7 FG percentage, a struggle reflected by Luke Maye’s 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting.
A game after getting outrebounded 40-31 by the Cardinals, Carolina allowed Notre Dame forward John Mooney to post 19 rebounds and 16 points on his own.
A game after turning the ball over 14 times, UNC committed 11 turnovers, albeit only 2 in the second half as Williams was pleased to announce.
The victory over the Irish was not close to a 180 degree turn from the disaster against Louisville. But it was a victory, and in the ACC, those aren’t treated lightly.
“I think we just took Louisville for granted,” freshman forward Nassir Little said. “After that we realized we can’t do that in this league.”
For about 30 minutes of game time, it seemed like the Tar Heels had taken another ACC team for granted.
Notre Dame’s Nate Laszewski nailed a 3 to end the first half and give the Irish a 36-33 lead at halftime. The two teams then went back and forth in the second half of a game that featured 17 lead changes.
“We fought and we battled,” senior forward Luke Maye said. “Even though we didn’t play well I feel like we battled and fought.”
Little provided the final blows of that battle with 11 second-half points, his highest scoring output in ACC play.
“As I got in a groove second half, I started to feel it,” Little said. “He left me in the game, got to get that rhythm.”
Little got into the rhythm with a smooth move around Notre Dame’s Juwan Durham, the ACC’s leading shot-blocker, for a baseline dunk.
“I saw a big guy on me,” Little said. “I was pretty confident he couldn’t move his feet as quickly as I could.”
Another set of quick feet crucial to UNC’s third conference win was Seventh Woods, whose Lebron-esque chasedown block of Laszewski ignited the Smith Center crowd and sparked a sluggish Carolina team.
“Seventh makes that play every night,” Little said. “It’s crazy.”
And in an ending fitting for the ideal ugly game, Maye missed two free throws before Notre Dame’s Prentiss Hubb cut UNC’s lead to 3 with 4 second left.
Woods, though, salted the game away with two free throws and UNC could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Relief for the win, no matter how ugly it was.