North Carolina is usually a model of offensive efficiency. That’s why it was such a shock during the Phil Knight Invitational two weeks ago when the 13th-ranked Tar Heels shot 24 percent in a 63-45 loss to No. 3 Michigan State.
It was the lowest shooting percentage in one game in North Carolina history. Judging from the results of the last three games (not including Wednesday’s game against Western Carolina), it also was an aberration.
Since then, the Tar Heels have shot .553 as a team in three consecutive victories, over Michigan, Davidson and Tulane. in the latter game, a 97-73 victory, UNC connected on 65 percent of its shots.
North Carolina had a double-digit lead before it missed a shot in that game. The Heels made 68 percent of its shots in the first half.
Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said it began on the defensive end, and called the first half “maybe our best defensive half of the year.”
Luke Maye has been the catalyst in the last three games, averaging 24.3 points and shooting 63 percent. Against Tulane, he added 10 rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots. Maye, the ACC player of the week, has scored 20 or more points in seven games this season and has at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in five games.
Notre Dame’s players apparently still have a case of Island Fever.
Since winning the Maui Invitational, beating No. 6 Wichita State in the championship, the ninth-ranked Irish have lost two of their last three games.
The first loss certainly was no disgrace — an 81-63 setback to No. 3 Michigan State.
But on Tuesday, Notre Dame lost to visiting Ball State for the first time in 10 meetings, 80-77, on Tayler Persons’ 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left.
Notre Dame had not only never lost to Ball State but the Irish had won every previous meeting by at least 14 points. It also was their first non-conference home loss in four years.
Bonzie Colson had 26 points for Notre Dame but Ball State dominated the offensive glass, pulling down 13 offensive rebounds and scoring 14 second-chance points. Notre Dame had four offensive boards and three second-chance points.
“They got us on the backboards,” Irish coach Mike Brey said.
The Irish play at Delaware on Saturday. It was the school where Brey got his first college coaching job.
USF transfer leaves Syracuse
Syracuse is down to eight scholarship players with the departure of graduate transfer Geno Thorpe for what he told the school were personal reasons.
The former University of South Florida guard left the team last week after averaging only 14 minutes of playing time this season. He scored 6.0 points per game and made only 4 of 13 3-point attempts.
Thorpe had a sprained ankle in the preseason and fell behind Tyus Battle and Frank Howard in the rotation. He played only four minutes the last time he was in a Syracuse uniform, a 72-70 loss to Maryland.
The Orange used two graduate transfers last year, Andrew White and John Gillon, and Thorpe was supposed to fill one of those spots.Thorpe led the Bulls with 15.1 points and 4.6 assists per game last season.
Florida State’s 17-point victory over the Florida Gators on Monday (83-66) was the largest margin for the Seminoles on the road against an opponent ranked in the AP top-25 since joining the ACC in 1992. … The ACC leads all conferences with five ranked teams this week, and has had at least five in the poll for the last 29 weeks and 39 of the last 41. … Duke has had the ACC rookie of the week 36 times in the last 72 weeks, with 10 players sharing the award.