|North Carolina and Syracuse in action. Photo by Jason Schott.
The evening part of the second day of the ACC Tournament saw Notre Dame coming from behind to beat Virginia Tech and North Carolina rolling to a victory over Syracuse.
Notre Dame Figthing Irish 71, Virginia Tech 65
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish came back from 13 points down at halftime to stun Virginia Tech 71-65.
Matt Farrell led the way for Notre Dame, as he scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half. Farrell shot 5-13 from the field, including 4-11 from behind the arc, while also getting five rebounds and five assists.
Farrell showed why he is the heart of this team when he drew a key technical foul on Chris Clarke with eight minutes left. That sent Farrell to the line for a pair of free throws that cut it to six, and then since they also got possession, TJ Gibbs got another couple of free throws to make it a 54-50 Virginia Tech lead.
This was amidst Notre Dame's comeback from 34-21 at the half. It was a first half in which Notre Dame shot just 8-32 from the field, and coupled with the 4-24 they shot in the second half Tuesday against Pitt, that was 12-56 for 40 minutes, the equivalent of a game.
Virginia Tech led by as many as 21, at 47-26, with 15:07 left in the second half, on a Kerr Blackshear, Jr. layup.
Those Gibbs free throws at 7:45 capped a 24-7 run at the time.
Notre Dame kept it going from there, and eventually took a 60-59 lead on a Bonzie Colson three-pointer with 2:02 left.
The Fighting Irish never trailed again down the stretch, eventually going up seven points, 66-59, with 35 seconds left on a pair of Gibbs free throws.
Virginia Tech broke a scoreless streak of six minutes and 22 seconds when Nickeil Alexander-Walker made a three-pointer that cut Notre Dame's lead to 66-62.
Rex Pflueger had three free throws, and Farrell a pair of them, to close out the 71-65 win.
Notre Dame moves on to play Duke in the Quarterfinals Thursday night at 7 pm, which is a rematch of last year's ACC Tournament championship game.
Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey said of the win, "Well, how about that one, huh? I've never been prouder of a group because they were thumping us pretty good because they're really hard to guard. But I thought in the second half, with the last 15 minutes, we got better defensively, and we made some adjustments offensively and were able to get scoring again.
"You know, it's a great group, man. They're just -- all the stuff they've been through, they're such tough dudes. And tonight you saw it, the toughness of hanging on in there. I don't know if I've ever been prouder of a team, in a game that really matters."
Farrell said of their defense the final 11 minutes of the game, "I think we really dug in defensively, and that helped us on the offensive end. When we defend, we think we can be a very good team. TJ did a great job because Coach kind of put me off the ball, and TJ was getting in the lane and making plays for guys and guys were hitting shots. That felt like us on the offensive end, but I think our defense was the thing that got us together."
North Carolina Tar Heels 78, Syracuse Orange 59
Courtesy of AP: Theo Pinson had 16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and Kenny Williams scored 17 points as No. 12 North Carolina beat Syracuse 78-59 on Thursday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
The sixth-seeded Tar Heels (23-9) face third-seeded Miami on Thursday night in the quarterfinals at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Oshae Brissett scored 20 points and made five 3s for 11th-seeded Syracuse (20-13), which never got closer than nine down in the second half. The Orange will head toward NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday firmly on the bubble.
North Carolina won the last game of a quadruple-header at Barclays, but it was still a sad day for Tar Heels Nation. Woody Durham, former longtime "Voice of the Tar Heels," died early Wednesday at 76 after a lengthy illness.
The Tar Heels honored Durham, who called North Carolina games for 40 years, by wearing white warm-up shirts that had "Woody" written in black letters across the backs. Coach Roy Williams wore a black suit with a Carolina blue ribbon lapel pin. Durham's son, Wes, was courtside calling the game for Raycom Sports.
North Carolina controlled the last 10 minutes of the first half and built a 39-29 at intermission. Then the Tar Heels used a 12-4 surge to start the second half, with Williams dropping in a 3 to prompt a timeout by Syracuse, to take a 51-33 lead with 15:35 left.
North Carolina shot 44 percent against the Syracuse zone, with Pinson picking through the seams and hitting the boards and Williams doing damage in on the break.
The lead was up to 21 a minute and a half later when Williams slipped a pass to Cameron Johnson trailing in transition for a layup.
North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams said of the win, "Feel very good about it. We played exceptionally well at times and didn't play with our brain at times. But I thought defensively it was one of our better games of the year, if not the best game of the year.
"Second half, we hit a bad stretch in there. We missed free throws, turned it over, took a couple of bad shots, and they made a run at us, and they did the same thing at Syracuse. Those three guys are really, really hard to guard out there.
"Second half I think we did a better job of guarding the three or perhaps they were even tired, but who knows; we're still playing."