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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press North Carolina's Theo Pinson shoots over the outstretched arm of Notre Dame's John Mooney on Monday in Chapel Hill, N.C. Pinson finished the game with 16 points, 14 coming in the second half, and 10 rebounds.

  • Associated Press Notre Dame’s John Mooney shoots over North Carolina’s Kenny Williams, left, and Theo Pinson during Monday’s game in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 1:00 am

North Carolina 83, Notre Dame 66

Tired Tar Heels pull away

Use 13-0 run over final 5 minutes to take down Irish

AARON BEARD | Associated Press

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina beat its two biggest rivals, then pulled away late to beat Notre Dame to cap a demanding stretch.

The 14th-ranked Tar Heels are tired. They also might have found a groove.

Theo Pinson scored 14 of his 16 points after halftime to go with 10 rebounds, helping UNC pull away to beat Notre Dame 83-66 on Monday night for its third win in five days.

Things certainly look different from 10 days ago for the Tar Heels (20-7, 9-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), who were coming off their first three-game losing streak in four years and a win against Pittsburgh before the stretch. But they beat Duke at home Thursday then won Saturday at North Carolina State in a pair of emotional rivalry games.

This time, UNC needed a 13-0 burst in the final 51/2 minutes to finally get some separation against a team that just kept hanging around.

“You could tell we were out there and had a rhythm,” Pinson said. “But at the same time, it's still tough recovering so fast, going from game to game. You want to celebrate one win and be like, 'Dang, that was a good win for us,' but you've got to get ready for the next game.

“It was a big-time stretch for us.”

Martinas Geben and John Mooney each scored 18 points for the Irish (15-11, 5-8), with Mooney going 6 of 6 from 3-point range. But UNC – which shot 57 percent – later used its clinching run to turn a 67-63 margin into a 17-point bulge near the 2-minute mark.

It didn't help the Irish that point guard Matt Farrell struggled; he scored nine points on 3-for-18 shooting, including 1 for 12 from 3-point range.

“I loved how we fought,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said, “but they had about a three-minute stretch where they were unbelievable offensively. And we certainly couldn't absorb that.”

The Irish have been just trying to stay afloat with preseason Associated Press All-American Bonzie Colson sidelined with a broken foot since late December. They had lost seven straight, but they had two high-scoring wins as Farrell returned to health from an ankle problem.

Colson has another two weeks in his projected recovery time, which could have him back in time for the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn.

“If we can keep (the final schedule) around .500, if we can get to eight league wins and be 8-10, that's as good as it gets,” Brey said. “And maybe we get Bonz back here ... and we go to Brooklyn with him healthy and see if we can play our way in (to the NCAA Tournament). That's our lot in life. We're very realistic about who we are.”

UNC's top scorer Luke Maye struggled to just eight points on 3-for-11 shooting after going for 33 points – 27 after halftime – and 17 rebounds at N.C. State.

“He's played a lot of minutes, a lot of basketball, beaten up himself with a lot of guys,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “If I had to say one guy that needs a rest more than anybody, I'd probably say Luke.”