"He's been fabulous for us. I have an unbelievable, close relationship with him. He's an extension of what we want to do. He kind of finishes my sentences. He's been a great ambassador, has represented, and is a class act. I think he's done a great job physically and mentally this year having to give us more than we and he probably thought." – Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey on senior guard Eric Atkins
"We have to be ready for a big North Carolina game. It's the last game of the season." – Notre Dame freshman guard Steve Vasturia
Since the Last Meeting: Notre Dame enters Monday's contest with a 15-15 (6-11 ACC) record. The Fighting Irish have split their six games since losing UNC at home just over three weeks ago. Head coach Mike Brey's squad topped Clemson and Boston College before losing at Miami and Virginia. Notre Dame bounced back with a three-point win over Georgia Tech, but lost on senior night in overtime to Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Senior Strong: Eric Atkins continues to pace Notre Dame from his point guard position, averaging a team-high 13.7 points overall and 14.1 points in league play. The two-time ACC Player of the Week's 4.8 assists per game (3rd ACC) and 2.51 assist-turnover ratio (8th ACC) highlight how critical the Columbia, Md. product is for Brey's offense. Atkins has struggled recently on the road, however. Over his last four road games, he's averaging 8.5 points on 34.2 percent shooting (13-of-38) to go along with 3.5 assists per game.
Taking Care of the Ball: While defensive woes paired with the loss of Jerian Grant have proved detrimental to Notre Dame's postseason chances, its ability to share the ball while limiting turnovers has allowed a competitive streak in ACC play. The Irish rank fifth in league games in assist-turnover ratio (1.3), while also ranking fifth in assists (13.5) sixth in turnovers. Connaughton (2.8) and Atkins (2.5) are fifth and ninth, respectively, in assist-turnover ratio in ACC play.
Minutes Piling Up: North Carolina fans have kept a close eye on Marcus Paige's minutes this season, although those concerns pale in comparison to Notre Dame's short bench. Atkins is second in ACC play in minutes played (39.2), thanks in part to logging all 50 minutes in the double-overtime win over Clemson and all 45 minutes against Pitt on Saturday. Connaughton is right behind his teammate in third place, playing 39.1 minutes per game.
Stats Crunch:The Irish continue to be effective offensively without providing much help defensively. In ACC play, Notre ranks sixth in both field goal percentage (44.2) and 3-point field goal percentage (33.9), while ranking 13th in field goal percentage defense (45.4) and 15th 3-point field goal percentage defense (38.9).
In the Clutch: Notre Dame is 5-3 in ACC games decided by five points or fewer.
Last Meeting: The Tar Heels defeated the Irish, 73-62, in South Bend on Feb. 8. Notre Dame built a 19-10 lead before UNC scored 47 of the next 69 points. James Michael McAdoo lead UNC with 18 points and eight rebounds while Marcus Paige added 16 points and six assists.
Series History: UNC leads the all-time series with Notre Dame, 17-4. The Tar Heels have won six of the last seven against the Irish, including the last four.
0 Eric Atkins (6-2, 182, Sr.) - 13.7 ppg, 4.8 apg
32 Steve Vasturia (6-6, 207, Fr.) - 4.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg
24 Pat Connaughton (6-5, 214, Jr.) - 13.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg
25 Tom Knight (6-10, 258, Sr.) - 4.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg
11 Garrick Sherman (6-11, 255, Sr.) - 13.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg
23 Demetrius Jackson (6-1, 195, Fr.) - 6.3 ppg, 1.9 apg
30 Zach Auguste (6-10, 242, So.) - 6.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg
20 Austin Burgett (6-9, 227, So.) - 3.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg
(Photos from USA Today Sports)