Off the cuff: A good sign for Carolina in an ugly game - or at least an ugly second half - against Notre Dame was the key play of Nate Britt.
Britt was a liability early in the season. Now that Leslie McDonald is back in the lineup, perhaps the pressure is off or perhaps it's just that he has more experience. But, whatever, UNC would not have won that game against the Irish without Britt.
Yes, he committed three fouls in just 21 minutes and he turned the ball over a couple of times. But the two shots he hit were big ones at key moments.
First, Notre Dame had its biggest lead of the game at 49-46 when Britt canned a long two from straight away to draw the Heels to within a point. In a deliberate game like this one, you don't want to get more than one possession behind.
His defense on the Irish's next trip down the court helped cause a shot clock violation.
With the score tied at 52 with less than five minutes to play - moments after being shaken up by a hard foul - Britt hit another long two, this one from the wing as Notre Dame left him open to focus on Marcus Paige.
He showed he was tough, coming back in the game after ND's Steve Vasturia really creamed him as he was going up for a shot.
Britt has been money from the foul line late in games recently but he didn't get a chance on that foul. He was hurt and needed assistance. Under the new rules, if a player gets assistance, he has to leave the game and the opposing coach gets to pick the free throw shooter from the other four players on the court.
Notre Dame chose Desmond Hubert, whose fine defense has been matched by his poor foul shooting this season. Hubert missed both free throws.
In a strange twist of the rules, had Britt bled, UNC would have been able to choose who shot the free throw. It might be time for some of that Missouri Mauler-Brute Bernard Raslin' fake blood to find its way into the trainer's bag.
Leslie McDonald has been playing so well as of late and was certainly the catalyst in the victory over Duke. But he just wasn't good against Virginia Tech. Perhaps he doesn't do well in deliberate games, not sure.
GoHeels.com's Adam Lucas put it this way. "That was not a vintage Leslie McDonald performance. The senior, who had been so good recently, was stymied by the Virginia Tech zone, and seemed content to try to shoot over it rather than use the penetration he had utilized so effectively recently. Nine of McDonald's 11 shot attempts were three-pointers. McDonald also went 1-for-4 from the free throw line in the final minute, but the one he made was a big one, as it provided a four-point margin and prevented the Hokies from potentially tying the game on a final three-pointer."
I've gotten so I despise watching Carolina games on ESPN. First, they run the same damn sports news across the bottom scroll. Second, they run Olympic results before I've been able to watch them. (I draped solid tape along the bottom of my TV.) Third, they constantly talk about other games that are coming up and players on those other teams. Fourth, at halftime they spend only about 30 seconds talking about the game that people tuned in to see. Fifth, they inundate us with promos of other games/shows coming up on their network. Sixth, they have too much power dictating when games are played. And finally after a great game, they quickly switch away to Baylor vs. Okla St. They need to schedule games two and a half hours apart not two hours. Remember when Jim Thacker et al would interview players on the court after such games and then talk about the conference implications of the result? Give me CD Chesley and Raycom any day.
Carolina Football: Golden anniversary of a redeeming 50-0 victory over Duke.
Carolina Football: Excerpts from an article on the history of the Carolina-Duke rivalry.
Henson Barnes, nation's top high school player, signs letter of intent
Duke hurt most by decision
Heels survive drought to edge Irish
North Carolina, up by 14 at the half, went cold in the second half just when Notre Dame was getting hot but a 7-0 run late righted the ship as the Tar Heels won their 12th straight game on Senior Night 63-61. (3/3)
Carolina, which led by as many as 15 points in the first half, managed just two baskets in the first 10 minutes of the second half. On the other side, Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton came out hot hitting his first four shots of the second half, including a three-point shot and an old-fashioned three-point play.
After a three by Steve Vasturia, Notre Dame took the lead for the first time in the game at 47-46 with 14:14 left in the game.
Over the next eight minutes, neither team did much combining for just seven points as the game was tied at 50 with 6:12 to go. That served Notre Dame's deliberate style.
Vasturia, who had fouled Nate Britt hard minutes earlier, scored on a layup with 3:57 left to put the Irish on top 56-54 amid boos from the Carolina crowd.
Over the next two and a half minutes, the Tar Heels went on a 7-0 run. James Michael McAdoo hit one of two free throws to start the run. He continued it with a big shot in the lane to put the Heels up for good at 57-56.
UNC's Brice Johnson scored on a reverse layup to give the Heels a 59-56. He was fouled and had a chance to make it a two-possession game with just 2:25 left but he missed the foul shot.
After a Vasturia miss, Carolina ate some clock and scored on a JP Tokoto short jumper late in the shot clock to put the Heels up 61-56 with 1:24 left.
The Tar Heels couldn't quite put it away as their best free throw shooter Marcus Paige missed two of four. As a result, Notre Dame's Eric Atkins, who led the Irish with 21 points, had a chance to tie it with a driving layup at the buzzer but Paige blocked the shot and the Tar Heels escaped with the victory.
It didn't look like it would be a game that came down to the last second as Carolina controlled things in the first half - even during the time that four seniors, included three walk ons, started.
UNC's seldom-used Wade Moody swished a three to start the game and the seniors led 8-4 during their two and a half minutes. A 16-8 run, highlighted by threes from Leslie McDonald and Paige, gave Carolina its largest lead of the game at 39-24.
The Tar Heels' free throw woes surfaced again as they hit only 10 of 22. From the floor, the Tar Heels only hit nine of 22 shots in the second half.
"We held them defensively for quite a while but we couldn't throw it in the ocean," UNC coach Roy Williams said.
He said he felt "lucky and weird" after that game. "I'm tired of winning games ugly," Williams said adding that it is better than losing games ugly.
Both teams employed creative zone defenses, including one by Notre Dame where Paige was played closely man-to-man while the other players were in a zone. It affected Paige, who hit just two of eight shots.
McAdoo led the Tar Heels with 14 points and nine rebounds while Tokoto added 11 on a five-of-five performance.
UNC's 12th straight victory moves the Heels to 23-7 and 13-4 in the ACC while Notre Dame fell to 15-16 and 6-12 in the league.
The Tar Heels, assured of a first-round bye in the ACC tournament, travel to Duke Saturday night for the regular season finale.
Carolina grinds out 11th straight win
North Carolina scrapped out a 60-56 win against a deliberate Virginia Tech team to give the Tar Heels their 11th straight victory. (3/1)
The Tar Heels held the lead most of the way and while the game result rarely seemed in danger, they couldn't pull away either. Poor foul shooting ensured that.
Carolina missed seven second-half free throws including five in the last minute and a half as Virginia Tech made it iffy at the end. Leslie McDonald hit the second of two free throws with 4.8 seconds left to wrap up the win.
"I screamed at Leslie for him to hit the free throw," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "That was very intelligent."
But he was frustrated that the Virginia Tech zone defense bothered his club throughout and his players couldn't seem to hit free throws down the stretch.
"It was a workmanlike effort for us," Williams said, praising James Michael McAdoo's second half effort.
McAdoo scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half including eight during a four minute stretch late.
A power dunk by McAdoo with 6:56 left put the Heels up by nine, their largest lead of the game, at 49-40.
As the Hokies kept hitting free throws (15 in the second half), the Tar Heels struggled setting up the nervous ending.
"We've gotta play better; we've gotta get better," Williams said. "To have a great year you have to win a lot of games ugly."
McAdoo led the Tar Heels with 15 points while McDonald added 14 and JP Tokoto chipped in 12.
UNC's 11th straight victory moves the Heels to 22-7 and 12-4 in the ACC while Virginia Tech fell to 9-19 and 2-14 in the league.
The Tar Heels host Notre Dame Monday night.
© 2013 CB3media Cary, NC
Heel Prints reviewed each UNC game
As a student sports editor years ago, prior to the season, Clifton Barnes predicted a national championship for the Tar Heels and indeed they won. In fact he wrote his lede paragraph for the national championship game almost a year early. He regrets that he didn't keep a journal after each game. He kept a journal after each game of the 2007-2008 season and you can reach them here. At the request of readers, he has kept up his journal of each game ever since. He also has written about UNC baseball and wrote an analysis after each 2008 UNC football game.
Editor's Note: HeelPrints chronicled the UNC basketball, baseball and football seasons for 2008 and 2009. Since the vast majority of comments I get about the site relate to basketball and since this isn't a paying job for me, I decided to limit my coverage and analysis to basketball. Baseball and football will remain archived and if I have comments or opinions I want to make on those or any other sports at UNC, I will make them here on the front page and then archive them in the corresponding sports section. Thanks for all the positive comments I have received about the site. Should I get sponsorship in the future, I will reconsider adding baseball and football again. Ironically, my favorite sports to watch in person are baseball and football. But my first connections to UNC came from watching Dean Smith's basketball teams on TV or listening to them on the radio in the days before all the games were televised. It should come as no surprise that people pay more attention to the basketball coverage. Thanks for your interest in this site.