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Off the cuff: That was fun. If it were a movie, it wouldn't be a tear-jerker with a happy ending like Phil Ford's Senior Night. It was more like a slapstick comedy with smiles and laughter throughout.

This could have been a trap game with the Duke regular-season finale coming up Saturday. Plus, Notre Dame came into the game playing its best ball of the season. And, Carolina could have gotten wrapped up in the finality of Armando Bacot, a six-year staple, playing his last game at the Smith Center.

But the Tar Heels were loose from the beginning and focused, especially on defense.

"This game was up there with our best defensive efficiency fo the season," UNC coach Hubert Davis said. "We were locked in."

The game was actually fairly close until RJ Davis and Cormac Ryan hit back-to-back threes to give the Tar Heels their first double-dgit lead of the game at 26-16 with just over seven minutes to play in the first half.

Any chance that the Irish would ruin the Senior Night were doused with the Tar Heels' 16-0 run to start the second half. Twelve of those 16 points came from beyond the arc with threes from four different Heels - Cormac Ryan, RJ Davis, Armando Bacot! and Jalen Washington.

Despite the blow out, most fans enjoyed the game until the very end. And they were rewarded by winning cookies from a company named Crumbl after a Notre Dame player missed two straight free throws.

Presumably many were waiting around for post-game remarks by seniors too but this year the Tar Heels chose to show senior comments on the big screens during timeouts throughout the game instead.

Carolina 84, Notre Dame 51
Heels, Bacot have fun on Senior Night


Five North Carolina players scored in double figures, including three who have or may have played their last game at the Smith Center, as the Tar Heels were all smiles in an 84-51 rout of Notre Dame on Senior Night. (3/5)

The jocularity actually started before the game as seven players went through the senior activities and the player introductions - with three seldom-used seniors (Duwe Farris, Rob Landry, Creighton Lebo) getting their first starts as Tar Heels.

The fun continued as Carolina's sticky defense and hot three-point shooting put the Heels up by 16 at the half 41-25.

But the celebration wasn't in full measure until the Tar Heels went on a 16-0 run at the start of the second half - a run that included a rare, crowd-pleasing three-pointer by big man Armando Bacot, playing his last home game after six years on the team.

The Fighting Irish managed to cut a 32-point deficit to 20 before Carolina went on an 18-0 run, capped by - guess what - another three-pointer by Bacot with 3:12 to go to make it 84-46, the largest lead of the game. Shortly after the bucket, UNC coach Hubert Davis took Bacot out of the game to thunderous applause from the Carolina faithful.

Bacot said he's probably taken 30,000 three pointers on that court as he practiced over the year, with it all culminating with two threes on Senior Night including the last shot he'll ever take in a game at the Smith Center. He hit just one other three-pointer this season.

"I told RJ (Davis) to get me the ball and I was going to shoot it from wherever I was," Bacot said with a laugh.

The Carolina fans showed their affection for Bacot at various intervals during the game, not just when he hit the two threes. "When I came here I never expected the love that has been shown to me by the fans and the community," he said, adding that he was pretty immature when he first set foot on campus. "I started here as a boy and I left as a man."

While the evening had no tears as some previous Senior Nights, Coach Davis said he was emotional before the game. "I saw all those parents and our seniors taking the floor for the last time and so many memories and moments went through my head - and how it goes by so quickly," he said.

With the Carolina defense holding Notre Dame to just over 30 percent shooting, Coach Davis and the Tar Heels were able to enjoy the game as the Tar Heels clinched at least a tie for the ACC regular season title.

"This group of guys is really special," Coach Davis said. "I really wanted this group to be able to hang a banner."

Bacot said the Tar Heels don't just want to share the banner with Duke either which would necessitate Carolina winning at Duke next Saturday. "Then we want to go get two more banners," he said referring to the ACC tournament title and the NCAA tournament title.

RJ Davis, who is a senior but has another year of eligibility if he wants it, led the Tar Heels with 22 points while one-year transfer Cormac Ryan added 14 to go along with Bacot's 14 points. Harrison Ingram finished with 11 points and a team-high 14 rebounds while Jalen Washington scored 10 points.

Notre Dame, who had won four of its last five games, are now 12-18 and 7-12 in the ACC. Tae Davis was the only Irish in double figures with 11 points.

The Tar Heels improve to 24-6 overall and 16-3 in the ACC. With the NCAA Tournament looming, most bracket predictions have the Heels as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. A win at Duke on Saturday would give the Heels sole possession of the regular season title and likely a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs.

Box score

(Photo by UNC Sports Information)

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