No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 5 Notre Dame
Records: UNC 26-6, Notre Dame 21-10
Time/TV: 7 p.m., ESPN, WRAL
Previous meetings this season: Feb. 6 (at Notre Dame): Notre Dame W 80-76
Last ACC tournament meeting: Notre Dame, 90-82, in 2015 championship game
Players to watch:
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame, 6-5, 225, So.: Colson had his third double-double of the season on Thursday during Notre Dame’s 84-79 overtime victory against Duke. Another one of those came in the Fighting Irish’s 80-76 victory against UNC on Feb. 6, when he finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Colson, who started on Thursday but sometimes comes off the bench, presents a difficult defensive matchup for the Tar Heels. He punished UNC in the second half especially in early February, when 13 of his points and four of his offensive rebounds came after halftime. Colson is aggressive and quick, and he’s capable of getting UNC in some foul trouble.
Brice Johnson, UNC, 6-10, 230, Sr.: Johnson has reached a level of consistency that eluded him through his first three years at UNC, and he finished with his 20th double-double – 19 points, 10 rebounds – of the season on Thursday during the Tar Heels’ 88-71 victory against Pittsburgh. One of his 20 double-doubles came against Notre Dame on Feb. 6, when he finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds. But he also missed 10 of his 16 shots from the field. Johnson in that game had difficulty getting open looks against Zach Auguste, Notre Dame’s 6-10 senior forward. Johnson also found himself in foul trouble against Notre Dame and finished with four fouls. He’ll have to be more efficient and avoid fouling as often on Friday.
Bottom line: This is a difficult matchup for UNC, which has lost its past two games against Notre Dame. Both times the Tar Heels failed to hold double-digit leads. UNC held an 11-point lead in the second half of the ACC championship game last year before the Fighting Irish rallied for a 90-82 victory. A little more than a month ago, the Tar Heels led by as many 15 late in the first half before losing 80-76. In both of those games Notre Dame spread UNC out defensively and point guard Demetrius Jackson successfully penetrated. The Tar Heels have to find a way to better contain Jackson, who finished with 19 points in the game in early February. The Tar Heels also have to do a better job of keeping Notre Dame off the free throw line. The Fighting Irish were 31-for-38 from the line on Feb. 6, and made 10 more free throws than UNC attempted.