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Off the cuff: At first glance, this Tar Heels team is hard to figure. They look a bit ragged in losing three straight and then they come back to win four straight, including three in a five-day period. Two of those game were emotional wins against rivals.

But maybe, in part, it's a natural progression for a team that is still jelling. In addition to three freshmen getting key playing time, the Tar Heels added a transfer that started the season injured.

"Cam (Johnson) is comfortable with us now," Theo Pinson said about the Pitt transfer. "Our lineup in meshing."

They have always been able to score but the points seem to be coming easier now. And while the defense around the perimeter has frustrated UNC coach Roy Williams, and while defensive lapses around the free throw line have led to open dunks and layups, the defense has improved during the four-game winning streak.

"Their defense on our guards was the big difference in the game," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.

Carolina can score quickly and in batches but the shots aren't always going to fall. If the Heels can continue to improve on defense, though, they'll be able to play with anybody in the ACC and NCAA tournaments.

That's a big "if" and depends on whether this is just a good run or a long-lasting trend.

Tar Heels 83, Notre Dame 66
Streaking Heels pull away late over ND

North Carolina, powered by Joel Berry and Theo Pinson in the second half, broke open a close game late as the Heels won their fourth game in a row and their third game in five days with an 83-66 win over Notre Dame. (2/12)

Notre Dame came from 10 down to cut the margin to one point at 58-57 with 9:38 left before Berry and Pinson led Carolina on a game-breaking 22-6 run.

During the run, Pinson had a couple of highlight reel plays that got the Smith Center hopping. With 6:36 left, Pinson faked defenders with a crossover move and put one in from high off the glass. After he converted an old-fashioned three-point play, Pinson took a pass from Luke Maye, took the ball up and under and in the basket to put the Heels up 72-63 with five minutes left.

Pinson, on his way to 16 points and 10 rebounds, scored nine points during the run while Berry, on his way to 21 points, scored six.

Notre Dame was stuck on 63 points for more than four minutes as Carolina poured it on.

UNC coach Roy Williams praised Pinson for being so active and Berry for being so tough. Berry, who had a toothache bad enough to see a dentist just four hours before the game, is a "tough nut," Williams said, with "a bad tooth but a big heart."

Berry drove to the hoop numerous times during the game, taking the hits going to the basket. He led the Heels to a 38-34 halftime lead as Carolina survived five first-half threes by Notre Dame's John Mooney, who finished with a season-high 18 points.

The Tar Heels extended the halftime lead to 10 at 56-46 when Berry drove the lane, scored and was fouled.

Three Notre Dame threes cut the margin to one before that 22-6 run that ended with an 80-63 Carolina lead and the starters heading to the bench with 1:13 to go.

Joining Berry and Pinson in double figures for Carolina was Kenny Williams with 14 and Cam Johnson with 13.

Carolina's leading scorer Luke Maye had an off night scoring, hitting just three of 11 shots. Coach Williams said his players are "a little bit tired" after the third game in five days and that "Luke probably needs rest more than anybody." Maye was coming off a 33-point, 17-rebound game against NC State.

The Tar Heels, who play at Louisville Saturday night, improve to 20-7 and 9-5 in the ACC while Notre Dame falls to 15-11 and 5-8 in the league.

Box Score

Pinson goes up high off the backboard. (UNC Sports Information Photo, Jeffrey Camarati.)

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