Notre Dame misses last-second shot, opportunity to knock off No. 20 UNC

Post-Tribune

T.J. Gibbs fell to the Purcell Pavilion floor in disbelief.

Seconds earlier, the Notre Dame guard had a good look as he attempted a game-winning basket Saturday against No. 20 North Carolina.

But the last-second putback rimmed out and the Tar Heels held on for a 69-68 victory.

“I thought it was good,” Gibbs said. “That’s just the way the game goes sometimes.”

Gibbs did all he could with game-high totals of 19 points and six assists as the Irish played their fourth consecutive game without Bonzie Colson and third without Matt Farrell.

Gibbs’ two free throws with 37 seconds remaining gave Notre Dame a 68-67 lead. North Carolina guard Joel Berry answered with two free throws to put the Tar Heels back ahead with 7.1 seconds to play.

Gibbs then dribbled the length of the court. His first shot bounced off the back of the rim, and he grabbed the rebound. His final attempt just didn’t fall, and the Tar Heels avoided the upset.

“Somebody left the door open,” Notre Dame forward Martinas Geben joked, “and the breeze (knocked it out).”

Geben had 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks for the Irish (13-5, 3-2 ACC).

“We talked about having a short memory after a great win (at Syracuse on Jan. 6), and you’ve got to have a short memory after a very tough loss,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.

Luke Maye led North Carolina (14-4, 3-2) with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Berry scored 15, and Theo Pinson added 13. The game featured 24 lead changes and 12 ties.

“I feel the luckiest maybe I’ve ever felt in my life at the end of a basketball game,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.

Colson, Notre Dame’s preseason All-America forward, is expected to miss about six more weeks because of his fractured left foot. Brey said Farrell could return from his ankle injury to run the point for Tuesday’s home game against Louisville.

“We need to get Matt Farrell back in practice on Sunday and Monday, and if all goes well, start him,” Brey said. “It’s time for him to come back. We’ve done a heck of a job without him, but we need him.”

Brey said Farrell is 80 percent.

“We just didn’t want to mess with it (Saturday),” Brey said.

Even though the Irish went without a field goals for the final 5 minutes, 57 seconds, they almost found a way to win.

“The fans were great, the atmosphere was great and UNC is obviously a great team,” said Notre Dame guard Nikola Djogo, who scored a career-high 12 points off the bench. “Going down to the wire with them was exciting. We just didn’t come up with the plays we needed to win.

“T.J. did a great job. He had a great look and another good look. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”

lpope@post-trib.com

Twitter @lamondpope

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