GREENSBORO, N.C. — No. 11 Notre Dame scored 15 consecutive points during a huge second-half run, allowing the Irish to go on to win a conference tournament for the first time in their history in a 90-82 victory over No. 19 North Carolina on Saturday night.
Guard Jerian Grants poured in 24 points as third-seeded Notre Dame won the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship game at the Greensboro Coliseum. It’s the Irish’s second season in the league.
Guard Pat Connaughton scored 20 points, hitting four 3-point shots as part of Notre Dame’s strong perimeter scoring.
Forward Zach Auguste’s 16 points, guard Steve Vasturia’s 14 points and guard Demetrius Jackson’s 11 points boosted Notre Dame (29-5). The Irish, who made 10 of their 20 attempts from 3-point range, take a five-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament.
Guard Marcus Paige’s 24 points (22 in the second half) and forward Brice Johnson’s 20 paced the Tar Heels (24-11), who were playing in their record 33rd ACC tournament final and aiming for their 18th crown –and their first one since 2008.
Fifth-seeded North Carolina, which was only the third team in tournament history to play four games in four days, wilted during a crucial stretch.
Notre Dame, which was playing in a conference tournament final for the first time in any league, went up by as many as 80-66 with less than three minutes to play.
Earlier, Notre Dame’s big run resulted in a 71-64 lead with about six minutes to play.
It was 76-66 after Connaughton’s 3-point basket and another North Carolina turnover. Things were going so well during that stretch that Grant missed a dunk and Auguste tapped it in.
North Carolina opened the second half on a 9-0 surge into the lead.
It took Notre Dame 3 minutes, 55 seconds to score in the second half and the Irish didn’t have a field goal for more than five minutes.
The Tar Heels made 12 of their first 16 second-half shots from the field on the way to a 63-54 edge midway through the half. But the Irish went on an 11-0 tear in 68 seconds that included three 3-pointers to blow into a 67-64 advantage and then they built it from there.
Notre Dame, propelled by five 3-point baskets, led 39-34 at halftime. The Irish held the upper hand at the half in all three of their games in the tournament.
North Carolina built a 19-13 edge before Notre Dame’s 12-0 run. But when Grant picked up his third foul with 4:47 left in the half, it threatened to put Notre Dame in a bind.
Connaughton had 12 points in the first 10 minutes.
North Carolina owned the offensive glass at times in the first half, tipping in three shots. Johnson had 10 first-half points on 5-for-7 shooting from the floor.
NOTES: In the only regular-season meeting, Notre Dame defeated North Carolina 71-70 on Jan. 5 in Chapel Hill. … Fifth-seeded North Carolina won three games to reach the final, including upsets of fourth-seeded Louisville and top-seeded Virginia. While the Tar Heels frequently have been among the top two seeds, this marked the first time in North Carolina’s history that it defeated two higher seeds in the same conference tournament. … After holding the title game on Sunday afternoon for more than three decades, the ACC returned to a Saturday night final for the first time since 1981. … This was the last ACC tournament in Greensboro until 2020. Next year’s tournament moves to the Verizon Center in Washington. … Notre Dame’s women’s team won its second tournament championship in a row last weekend in the same building where the men played this week.
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