The second-ranked Fighting Irish continually beat the Tar Heels with back-door plays, shooting 61 percent in the first half and 51 percent for the game en route to a 100-75 victory Thursday night to finish the regular season unbeaten at home.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said the Irish thought the backdoor would be successful against the Tar Heels because they tend to overplay the ball.
“I thought we could have got a couple of more, but I thought we did a pretty good job,” she said. “I thought we kept up our tempo.”
“They were just really in sync,” McGraw said. “They had a good rhythm going.”
North Carolina associate head coach Andrew Calder said Notre Dame’s speed gave the Tar Heels trouble.
“They’re so good at cutting with speed, a lot like UConn,” he said. “They’ll cut with speed and just slip and go. They do a great job reading that. They just do an outstanding job of taking advantage of your mistakes defensively.”
Just like against Duke on Sunday, when Notre Dame opened with a 20-2 run, the Irish took control from the start. The Irish (28-0, 15-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) forced four turnovers in two minutes to quickly take a 10-2 lead. Achonwa later scored nine points during an 11-0 run that gave Notre Dame a 31-15 lead. The Irish extended the lead to 22 when Michaela Mabrey hit a 3 late and led 55-38 at intermission.
The Tar Heels (21-8, 9-6) rallied in the second half with a 10-4 run, highlighted by a three-point play by Xylina McDaniel, to cut the lead to 61-51.
McBride hit a jumper to spark a 6-0 spurt as the Irish regained control and eventually led by 28.
“They just come off their screens so fast. That’s just hard to guard,” said McDaniel, who led UNC with 18 points.
Notre Dame had a 46-36 advantage in the paints and scored 28 points from the foul line while North Carolina had just 14.
McBride said the Irish, who already clinched the league title their first season in the ACC, have been more relaxed the past two games.
“We’re just coming out and we’re getting stops on defense and not letting transition baskets and we’re hitting shots early. It was a lot of fun being out there with them today,” McBride said.