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UNC puts up fight — but No. 6 Notre Dame prevails

Despite 37 combined points from Paris Kea and Stephanie Watts, the Tar Heels could not overcome their lackluster first half performance and fell 77-55 to Notre Dame at home.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina had the best player on the floor today against No. 6 Notre Dame — but their terrible 2nd quarter would lead to the Tar Heels’ demise.

The Fighting Irish clinched a very dominant 77-55 victory against North Carolina at Carmichael Stadium on Sunday after an extended road trip.

The game was the last of a long leg of away games for the Irish, who had played their last 10 of 12 games away from Purcell Pavilion. However, the Tar Heels came out with a momentum that showed the work was not over yet.

Notre Dame quickly took the lead in the first minutes of the game at 9-4 with Lindsay Allen and Marina Mabrey shooting layups and a 3-pointer.

However, Paris Kea kept the Fighting Irish from pulling away by scoring two field goals in the first three minutes. She continued the momentum throughout the first half, scoring 17 points.

“Well, Kea was a huge problem. She had 17 of their 27 points at halftime. We had no answer for her,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “She is a really, really talented player and with her agility playing anything one through four was a really tough matchup for us.”

Kea changed the momentum for the Tar Heels in the first quarter when she stole the ball from Allen and took it up the court for a layup that put the Heels in the lead at 12-11. After the 6-0 run from Carolina, Brianna Turner completed a field goal, which put Notre Dame back in the lead by one point.

Kea and Jamie Cherry continued to make the shots that kept North Carolina in the game, but it was not enough to drive the Tar Heels to the lead. Arike Ogunbowle scored a 3-pointer and a layup in the last minutes of the quarter, giving Notre Dame a 24-21 lead when the first came to a close.

As the second quarter commenced, Notre Dame took off on a scoring streak against the Tar Heels, scoring 14 points off turnovers and 13 points from fast break shots. Mabrey and Turner were the leading scorers for the Fighting Irish, commanding a combined 20 points at the end of the first half. Notre Dame scored a total of 23 points during the second quarter, with the Tar Heels only scoring six.

“Probably the second quarter a lot of transition,” Turner said when talking about the scoring streak from Notre Dame. “We are really good in transition, so just getting rebounds and running the floor.”

A key contributor to the breakaway lead for the Irish was the absence of Stephanie Watts, the leading scorer for the Tar Heels who ranks second in the ACC with an average 18.8 points per game. Watts only scored one point for the entire first half.

The Tar Heels, who could not make any of their shots fall, entered halftime trailing Notre Dame 47-27. However, Watts came onto the court after her slow first half fired up with a momentum that led her to score seven points in the first three minutes of the third quarter.

Patberg and Turner reciprocated Watt’s energy on the returns by completing layups that brought the score to 53-35. Turner continued her momentum with two layups after Allen received a free throw. However, Kea, who was essential to the Tar Heel success in the first half, was an absent scorer in the third, not completing her first field goal until the end of the quarter.

The Tar Heels went on a scoring streak in the third quarter, which led to the Tar Heels outscoring the Irish by twp points. North Carolina shot 18 points, while Notre Dame only completed 16.

Watts scored a 3-pointer that closed the gap to below 20 for the first time since the second quarter at 59-40. Cherry followed with a 3-pointer that gave North Carolina their sixth of the game, while Notre Dame had five.

The fourth quarter opened with a 63-45 lead for the Irish.

In the first part of the fourth quarter, Notre Dame had scored six points while the Tar Heels hadn’t put any points on the board. Notre Dame maintained their lead at 69-47 with less than six minutes left in the game.

With under a minute left to play, Kea stole the ball and took it down the court for a layup, giving her the last basket of the game.

Kea and Watts were the leading scorers for the Tar Heels, scoring 23 and 14 points, respectively.

Turner, the leading scorer for Notre Dame with a double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds, helped secure the Irish a 77-55 victory that brought Notre Dame’s long string of away games to a close.

The Tar Heels will travel south to take on No. 14 Miami Thursday at 7 p.m. EST. Notre Dame will face Duke at home Thursday at 7 p.m. EST.