Tar Heels demolish Notre Dame to advance to Quarterfinals

Third-seeded Virginia Tech is next up for UNC

North Carolina Walker Kessler (13) defends Notre Dame’s Nate Laszewski (14) during the second half on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 during the ACC Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.

GREENSBORO — North Carolina found out shortly before game time that senior big man Garrison Brooks, who hurt his ankle on Saturday against Duke, would not be available.

It turned out, the Tar Heels didn’t miss him much. Carolina blew out Notre Dame, 101-59, to advance to the ACC Tournament quarterfinals against No. 3 seed Virginia Tech.

The 42-point win was the largest in ACC Tournament history for the Tar Heels.

Without Brooks, the Tar Heels had to rely on their three younger big men, who all came up big.

“I challenged them before the game,” coach Roy Williams said.

Sophomore Armando Bacot responded with 20 points and 13 rebounds. His eight offensive boards were eighth most in ACC Tournament history.

Freshman Day’Ron Sharpe, who took Brooks’ spot in the starting lineup, added 14 points, 10 rebounds (seven offensive) and six assists. Freshman Walker Kessler came off the bench to score 16 with 12 rebounds and block eight shots — an ACC Tournament-high for a Tar Heel and a freshman record for the tournament.

The Heels put together a 22-0 run, part of a 37-2 second-half explosion that broke open a relatively close game. Notre Dame had been hanging around, about 10 points down, since midway through the first half. The Irish had a late-game comeback against Wake Forest, but Carolina’s run made sure that Notre Dame wouldn’t pull off the same trick again.

Three thoughts

1. Williams said he wasn’t sure if Brooks would be available for Thursday’s quarterfinal game. He stepped on Matt Hurt’s foot early in the Duke game and turned his ankle, Williams said.

2. Williams cleared his bench in the blowout, but the coach was unhappy that his bench was a little short. ACC rules limit the number of players a team can dress for the tournament, so walk-on Duwe Ferris was not available. Williams demanded that the media write about the issue and complained that the league rules prevented his walk-ons from getting time in the tourney.

3. The Tar Heels dominated inside, getting 54 rebounds to Notre Dame’s 31. The Heels outscored Notre Dame in the paint 56-20 and beat the Irish 27-13 on second-chance points.

Number to Know

101 — The Tar Heels topped 100 points, the first time a team has done that in the tournament since 2007. It was the first 100-point regulation (non-overtime) game since 1999 and the first time UNC turned the trick since 1993.

They Said It

“Guys, I have no idea.”

— UNC coach Roy Williams on Garrison Brooks’ availability

Player of the Game

The Carolina Bigs — The three players combined for 50 points (all of Notre Dame had 59) on 21-of 31 shooting. They had 35 rebounds (Notre Dame had 31) and 10 blocks (Notre Dame had four).

Critical thinking

Kessler discussed the fact that the Tar Heels would have to have a fast turnaround for their next game, delivering the old adage that the team would celebrate the win until midnight. Of course, that meant they had about 20 minutes left after the postgame from the 9 p.m. start was complete.