Game 5: No. 8 Notre Dame (4-0) vs. No. 1 North Carolina (5-0)
Date: Wednesday, November 26
Time: 10:00 p.m. (E.S.T.)
Tonight's Maui Invitational Championship game between Notre Dame and North Carolina has a definite March feel to it, as two of the top teams go head-to-head in what should be a marquee classic.
Notre Dame has made well so far of bringing home some hardware with an exciting 81-80 victory over No. 6 Texas last night.
If the Fighting Irish want to make their wish into a reality, they will have to play a near flawless game and have a few others step up besides Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney. Guard Tory Jackson has put together a string of superb games that could help combat the Tar Heels defense.
North Carolina is outscoring their opponents by 25 points, while holding them to 39.6 percent shooting, including 32.8 percent from 3-point range. The Tar Heels have all five starters averaging double figures in scoring, led by forward Danny Green. UNC also got back the services of All-American Tyler Hansbrough.
Hansbrough has been slowed recently with shin problems, but should be serviceable against the Irish. The Maui crowd will also have a treat, as two of the best players in the nation will go toe-to-toe in Hansbrough and Harangody.
Notre Dame is continuing its unselfish play, dishing 17.5 assists per night, with Jackson leading the way with 5.7. The Irish are also starting to light it up at the right time as they are connecting on 47.9 percent of their field goals, and 40 percent of their shots behind the 3-point arc.
The two keys for the Irish tonight will be, first, to improve their free throw shooting (59.5 percent on the season), and second, dictate the tempo of this contest. Notre Dame can ill afford to get into a track meet with the more athletic Tar Heels. Plus they have a lot more horses in the stable.
North Carolina Tarheels
Head Coach: Roy Williams (career 560-134); sixth year at North Carolina (142-33)
Last Season: 36-3 overall, 14-2 in the ACC; lost in the semifinals of the Final Four
The Tar Heels have it all. Strength in the middle, solid shooting on the perimeter, pressure defense, speed, and a solid point guard. All five starters—Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Marcus Ginyard, Deon Thompson, and Tyler Hansbrough—return.
—They also have depth with two key backups in Danny Green and Bobby Frasor returning and some talented recruits being added to the roster. Green can be instant offense off the bench and gives the Heels another 3-point threat to go along with Elllington. A talented freshman class makes the Heels even deeper.
Since Hansbrough is back into the UNC lineup, if a team can neutralize him inside and take advantage of his weaknesses on defense, it can give the Heels trouble. Kansas jumped on the Heels early in their NCAA Tournament matchup and had the game out of hand by halftime. That won't happen again.
—Ellington can be off at times with his 3-pointer, and that also makes the Heels beatable.
F Danny Green 15.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg
F Deon Thompson 14.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg
F Tyler Hansbrough 14.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg
G Ty Lawson 13.6 ppg, 5.6 apg
G Wayne Ellington 14.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg
F Zach Hillesland 6.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg
F Luke Harangody 25.0 ppg, 12.3 rpg
G Ryan Ayers 8.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg
G Tory Jackson 14.8 ppg, 5.7 apg
G Kyle McAlarney 11.8 ppg, 3.7 apg