NOTRE DAME — For nearly a full half, it looked like Notre Dame would stun another national basketball powerhouse under the roof of the Purcell Pavilion.
Everything went right for the Irish in the first 10 minutes of the contest. They were shooting perfect from behind the arc, Garrett Sherman was winning the post battle and North Carolina couldn't buy a layup.
Notre Dame led by as many as nine points before the Tar Heels (16-7, 6-4 ACC) started firing on every cylinder.
As the Irish began to turn the ball over more, North Carolina punished them with speed and athleticism. Notre Dame could only watch as lightning-quick Tar Heel guards stretched the court for coast-to-coast transition layups and a shower of dunks.
Down low, Sherman was getting swatted and swarmed every time he tried to make a move. J.P. Tokoto and Marcus Paige patrolled the boards, scoring put-back layups on seven of their 15 offensive rebounds.
North Carolina ran away with the second half, cruising past Notre Dame 73-62. The Irish fall to .500 (12-12) and 3-8 in the ACC. Sherman led the Irish with 17 points.
Their nine point lead erased and replaced with a 4-point North Carolina advantage at the half, the Irish offense never fully recovered.
"(North Carolina) played really well to the end of the half, and we could never get any rhythm or confidence back to end the second half," head coach Mike Brey said. "We made a nice run to make it interesting with four minutes left, but it's disappointing since we got out of the gate well and off to a good start....We're really searching for a rhythm offensively, and that's probably hurting us the most right now."
Notre Dame started 4-of-5 from the field and finished the first half 9-of-23. Pat Connaughton hit two 3-pointers in the first half but would finish with only seven total points.
On the backs of Zach Auguste and V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame clipped North Carolina's 16-point lead down to eight late in the second half. But the run wasn't enough to overcome 17 turnovers and the uncontested layups on the other end of the court. If Notre Dame hit two free throws, North Carolina answered with a fast break layup without a white jersey in sight.
"At a point it just comes down to a matter of pride, lifting your head up and doing what they can to stop them and doing what they can as a team," Connaughton said. "We didn't come out in the second half the way we wanted to. We just weren't able to get that final thrust, if you will, and that's a credit to them. They played a great game."