Turnovers prove costly for Notre Dame
By Lamond Pope firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-2691 February 8, 2014 11:02PM
North Carolina forward Kennedy Meeks, left, puts up a shot as he is fouled by Notre Dame forward Zach Auguste during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Updated: March 10, 2014 6:45AM
SOUTH BEND — Pat Connaughton and Steve Vasturia made back-to-back three-pointers to give Notre Dame a nine-point lead midway through the first half Saturday against North Carolina.
Were the Irish on the way to knocking off another one of the ACC’s traditional powers at Purcell Pavilion?
Not so much.
North Carolina picked up the intensity defensively and rallied for a 73-62 victory.
“Their size around the basket really bothered us and they defended the heck out of us,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
Garrick Sherman led the Irish (12-12, 3-8 ACC) with 17 points. But Notre Dame couldn’t overcome 17 turnovers. The Irish lost for the eighth time in 10 games.
“Our turnovers really hurt us,” said guard Eric Atkins, who had 12 points. “We had way too many in a row in the first half which jump-started their run in the first half and we carried it over into the second half as well.”
Notre Dame couldn’t have envisioned a better start to the conference season, beating Duke in the team’s first ACC game on Jan. 4.
Little has gone right since.
Turnovers were the major issue Saturday. North Carolina scored 23 points off of the Notre Dame miscues.
“There’s no question that turnovers are a big part of our game because we like to run,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “In the open court we make some good decisions and I think that led to some good basketball and some good shots around the basket.”
James Michael McAdoo led the Tar Heels with 18 points. Marcus Paige added 16 points and six rebounds.
“It was one of those games where the ball was going in,” Williams said. ”But I thought we were more active defensively and came up with turnovers.”
The Tar Heels had an 8-0 edge in fast-break points. And North Carolina dominated in the paint, scoring 44 points to Notre Dame’s 26.
“You’ve got to take the edge off the paint stuff a little bit if you’re going to have a chance,” Brey said.
The consecutive three-pointers by Connaughton and Vasturia gave the Irish a 19-10 lead with 8:36 remaining. Vasturia and V.J. Beachem each finished with 10 points.
But Notre Dame scored just four points the rest of the first half. North Carolina went on a late 9-0 run and led 27-23 at halftime.
“They played really well to end the half,” Brey said, “and we never really could get any kind of rhythm or confidence back in the second half.”
McAdoo stole the ball on the opening possession of the second half and threw a long pass to Leslie McDonald, who finished with a layup. North Carolina (16-7, 6-4) was on its way to winning its fifth straight.
Meanwhile, the Irish continued their tailspin.
“It’s just a matter of leading these guys, staying together,” said Connaughton, who ha seven points and 10 rebounds. “Those are the things you have to do in times like this.”