Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
On Easter Sunday, the luck of the Irish finally ran out. Despite a spirited effort against the number one team in the nation heading into the NCAA Tournament, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish couldn’t conjure up one more magical victory and punch their ticket to the Final Four.
The Irish kept things close in a wild first half that saw eight lead changes. V.J. Beachem and Demetrius Jackson paved the way for the Irish in the first half with 11 and 13 points each, respectively.
Most impressively for the Irish in the first half was their ability to keep things close even without dominant senior big man Zach Auguste, who ran into foul trouble in the game’s opening minutes, which forced coach Mike Brey to sit him down for much of the first half.
Though Notre Dame were within striking distance and down just five points coming out of the half, the Irish couldn’t close the gap as UNC took over in the paint and were able to counter all of Notre Dame’s runs with runs of their own.
Leading the charge, as per usual for the Tar Heels, was star forward Brice Johnson, who finished the game with his fourth consecutive double-double of the NCAA Tournament, finishing with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
Midway through the second half, Notre Dame went on a 12-0 run and cut UNC’s lead to just two thanks in part to a technical foul on Johnson.
But after being reprimanded and sat down by coach Roy Williams with three fouls, Johnson quickly made amends for the Tar Heels.
Besides Johnson’s dominance, fellow big man Kennedy Meeks played a huge role for the Tar Heels down the stretch. Meeks finished the game with 10 points on 4-4 shooting, all in the second half.
Now, thanks to Johnson and Meeks, the Tar Heels are off to face No. 10 seed Syracuse in the Final Four in Houston next Saturday for a chance to advance to the NCAA Championship.
This is UNC’s first trip back to the Final Four since 2009 when they went on to beat Michigan State in the finals and claim their fifth championship in school history and second with coach Williams.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for any of his other three teams.
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