Against Syracuse, Notre Dame managed only 51 points but was able to steal a win at the Carrier Dome thanks to late game heroics from Rex Pflueger. On Wednesday night, however, their offensive woes proved to be too much to overcome in a 60-53 loss at Georgia Tech.
Their toughest ACC challenge to date comes tonight when the 20th ranked and 13-4 North Carolina Tar Heels come to town today.
The last time the Tar Heels came to South Bend they were 19-3 overall and ranked second in the country awaiting a primetime game. It was the perfect opportunity for Notre Dame to earn a big-time win and give them a boost of confidence for the rest of the season.
Mike Brey‘s squad thrived in the underdog role, beating the Tar Heels 80-76. They used the crowd’s energy to make a late rally and prove once again how hard it is for road teams to win at Purcell Pavilion.
Although there are new faces on both sides, some playing tonight experienced the game two years ago. All the coaches and players alike on both sides know that this will be a hard fought battle until the end.
For the Tar Heels to capture a victory, look for them to go inside to junior forward Luke Maye from the outset. Also, if the Irish do not have Matt Farrell, senior guard Joel Berry should be aggressive in attacking the basket and looking for opportunities to score.
On the defensive end, North Carolina must shut down sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs, who seemingly carried the Irish offense in their victory at Syracuse. If they can make life tough for Gibbs, Notre Dame will have a lot of trouble scoring the basketball.
As for the Irish, Gibbs has to play well on both ends of the floor, as well as avoid foul trouble. Aside from Gibbs, other players have to step up as well. Namely, D.J. Harvey, Rex Pflueger, and Martinas Geben must provide outlets for Gibbs to pass the ball to when opportunities are there.
Even though Notre Dame is short-handed, they will give North Carolina all they can handle. With the home crowd behind them and a history of upsets at home under Mike Brey, anything can happen.