No college basketball team is safe—especially on the road.
About an hour after the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners lost on Saturday, the No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels fell on the road to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 80-76, at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Indiana.
The loss was a rare one for the sport, per ESPN College BBall:
Notre Dame takes down UNC! It's 7th time in CBB history in which both AP #1 and #2 teams lost to unranked teams. pic.twitter.com/H4uaV7Q7lu— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) February 7, 2016
The students were not going to be stopped from celebrating this one, per SportsCenter:
Another upset! Notre Dame takes down No. 2 North Carolina, 80-76. pic.twitter.com/2owgL13YdJ— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 7, 2016
All five Irish starters scored in double figures, led by Demetrius Jackson and Bonzie Colson, who both had 19 points. Two free throws from Jackson with 19 seconds remaining pushed the lead to 79-76, and after the Tar Heels' Marcus Paige missed a three-pointer on the other end, Notre Dame rebounded and sealed the victory.
The difference in the game came at the free-throw line as the Irish nailed 31 of 38 attempts from the charity stripe, while UNC was just 16-of-21.
North Carolina had a 53-50 lead with 10:31 left, but Notre Dame tied the game at 60 all with this acrobatic play by Steve Vasturia with just less than eight minutes remaining in the game, per College GameDay:
AND ONEEEEE!! https://t.co/wZRCj45HP9— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) February 7, 2016
A Colson layup at 6:35 gave the Irish a 65-64 lead they would never relinquish. The victory was the first of its kind in a decade, per ESPN:
With UNC's loss at Notre Dame, this marks the first day in 10 years that No. 1 and No. 2 fell to unranked teams. pic.twitter.com/h1WNNpUjN6— ESPN (@espn) February 7, 2016
The Tar Heels, who were ranked No. 1 in the AP poll earlier this season, have now lost two in a row and are tied with the Louisville Cardinals for first place in the ACC at 8-2 in conference play. ESPN's Dana O'Neil remarked on their recent performance:
North Carolina continues to be an annoying enigma. Notre Dame just played harder. Toughness, grit, oomph, choose... https://t.co/0cfcQZncTv— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) February 7, 2016
It's hard to argue with O'Neil's assessment of Notre Dame when it was making plays like this one from Zach Auguste, per ESPN:
Auguste had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Meanwhile, Vasturia had 13 points, and V.J. Beachem finished with 10. Paige was UNC's leading scorer with 21, and Brice Johnson had an impressive double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
The Tar Heels are firmly in the NCAA tournament, but the loss tightens things up toward the top of the ACC. While tied with Louisville, North Carolina leads the Virginia Cavaliers by just a half-game.
Notre Dame (16-7) is slowly ascending toward the top of the standings as it now sports a 7-4 conference record.
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey was proud of the fight from his team, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
"It was a gritty one. They had to fight and do some tough stuff in the paint defensively," Brey said. "Bonzie and Zach were men tonight. They were pounding against four big bodies that kept coming at them all the time."
Jackson was happy to beat a top team, per the AP: "It feels great to beat a great team and it feels even better to do the things we had to do to win that game: Good things on the defensive end, which has been a struggle for us."
UNC head coach Roy Williams, who doesn't hold back his emotion after big games, gave all the credit to Brey and his team, per the AP.
"Their coach did a heck of a lot better job of getting his guys to play with a great deal of intensity than I did," he said. "I look down there at the stat sheet, 19 points off turnovers for them, zero for us. Twenty-three second-chance points for them, 13 for us. Thirty-eight foul shots for them, 21 for us. I have to do a heck of a lot better job of getting my club to play with a lot more intensity than we did."
ESPN's Jeff Goodman made note of the night of upsets, hoping it means a great finish to the college basketball season:
Oklahoma loses at Kansas State. UNC loses at Notre Dame. March is gonna be so much fun. Complete uncertainty.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) February 7, 2016
It's fun for fans of college basketball but it certainly wasn't enjoyable for the Tar Heels. Back-to-back losses for them are rare and look for Williams and his team to beat up on the lowly Boston College Eagles in their next game, giving them momentum as they head into games with the Pitt Panthers and rival Duke Blue Devils.