No. 21 Tar Heels finish tough stretch against Notre Dame
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina will try to complete the trifecta when Notre Dame visits Monday night at the Smith Center.
For the No. 14 Tar Heels, it's the third game in five days, a grueling stretch that has included victories against two neighboring rivals.
"Got to be ready," coach Roy Williams said, figuring there was no use bemoaning the assigned schedule.
This is the first time North Carolina has had three ACC regular-season games scheduled in a five-day period since 1980. The Tar Heels are the only ACC team with such a setup on the schedule this season.
There were three games across four days in 1990 for North Carolina, but that was created by a postponement when the Gulf War began.
North Carolina (19-7, 8-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost on the back end the last time it had a Saturday-to-Monday turnaround, falling at Virginia Tech.
"I'll have to do a better job," forward Luke Maye said, noting that this is part of a three-game stretch.
Notre Dame (15-10, 5-7) has followed a seven-game losing streak with a two-game winning streak, defeating Boston College and Florida State at home.
The return of senior point guard Matt Farrell from an ankle injury for the past three games has been a boost. Farrell poured in a career-best 28 points Saturday, while junior guard Rex Pflueger also had a career-high total with 19.
The Fighting Irish is hoping this signals an upward trend.
"Our group is together and they want to keep fighting," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "See if you can get a league win that can kind of turn the tide for you."
Farrell didn't play in last month's loss to North Carolina. Injuries have been something the Fighting Irish have had to deal with.
"Who's available today? He's feeling really good? Who can play full minutes?" Brey said. "It has been dysfunctional from that point."
The Tar Heels shot 78.1 percent from the field in the second half Saturday at North Carolina State, marking the highest rate in a half with Williams as the coach. Maye, a junior, had quite a bit to do with it by racking up a career-high 33 points, with 27 of those coming in the second half.
"Coach told me at halftime I needed to be a little bit more of a player," Maye said. "I took that as a challenge."
His teammates mostly followed along.
"Five guys in double figures -- you've got to like that," Williams said, referring to the team's offense against N.C. State. "But I still think we have to be better defensively."
It took a defensive stand for North Carolina on the final possession to hang on for a 69-68 victory against Notre Dame on Jan. 13 in South Bend, Ind.
This is Notre Dame's third trip to North Carolina's Triangle region in 15 days, having lost at Duke and at N.C. State.
Last February's scheduled meeting between the Irish and Tar Heels was delayed a day and moved from Chapel Hill to the Greensboro Coliseum because of a water crisis in Chapel Hill that closed campus. North Carolina won that matchup.