In just its second year in the conference, Notre Dame was able to take home the 2015 ACC tournament title with a 90-82 win over North Carolina.
ESPN's Andy Katz explained what this meant for the conference:
The Fighting Irish showcased their offensive firepower as they shot 54.2 percent from the field, including 10-of-20 from three-point range. Jerian Grant was the catalyst, finishing with 24 points and 10 assists, although this wasn't a one-man effort. Pat Connaughton added 20 points, while Zach Auguste came through with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Marcus Paige had a strong effort for the Tar Heels with 24 points, while Brice Johnson had 20—but the issue was clearly the inability to defend the Irish.
As Jeff Borzello of ESPN noted, this will be a major problem for more teams going forward:
North Carolina appeared to be in good shape throughout a lot of the second half. After being down five at intermission, the squad came out firing while getting the Greensboro crowd to add to the momentum, per Andrew Carter of The News & Observer:
ESPN's Josina Anderson was impressed by Johnson's play during this run, with the Tar Heels ready to pull away with a nine-point lead:
However, the high-power Notre Dame offense turned things around with some fantastic ball movement and great outside shooting. Bret Strelow of The Fayetteville Observer noted how quick the game changed:
The run amazingly got a lot worse for North Carolina, as ESPN Stats and Info described:
Notre Dame was able to expand the lead to double digits as part of a 24-2 run before the Tar Heels were finally able to get some points to slow the momentum.
While some UNC baskets in the closing moments made things interesting, it was not enough to prevent the Irish from closing out an eight-point win in an exciting battle.
The first half of the game started with as much action as you can hope for in a contest of this magnitude. The back-and-forth pace led to some big plays and plenty of scoring both inside the perimeter and out.
Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports summed up the first 20 minutes:
The leading scorer in this stretch was Connaughton, who had 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field. ESPN's Jay Williams noted the problem for North Carolina:
Johnson was putting up good numbers on the offensive end, but he didn't quite fit in on defense. This same issue remained a problem for the Tar Heels throughout the second half, as the spread offense was just too difficult to stop.
This was also the fourth game in as many days for North Carolina, which was unable to get a double-bye as the No. 5 seed. Still, junior Marcus Paige discussed the need to fight through the exhaustion, via Jeff Mills of the News and Record:
At this point, everybody’s tired. The team we’re playing will be playing their third game in a row, so you have to mentally not think about it and just tough it out.
Once they throw the ball up, you can’t worry about being tired. There is no time for that. Especially for what’s on the line: a championship, a chance to call yourself the best.
It appeared the fatigue finally settled in for the Tar Heels, as they were unable to keep up with the slightly fresher Irish.
While this game didn't matter in respect to getting the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, it was still important for seeding. According to BracketMatrix.com, Notre Dame entered the day as a projected No. 3 seed, while North Carolina was generally considered a No. 4.
Still, both teams will be serious threats in March Madness, regardless of where they land in the bracket.
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