CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)Paulina Paris was ready for her fourth-quarter moment.
So too was 22nd-ranked North Carolina when the chance came to stop a four-game skid.
Paris scored 11 of her season-high 16 points in the final period to help the Tar Heels push past No. 4 Notre Dame 60-50 on Sunday, earning their first league win as well as a second against a top-5 opponent this season.
”They’ve leaned into losing some close games late but not losing faith,” UNC coach Courtney Banghart said.
Deja Kelly added 14 points for the Tar Heels (10-5, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who snapped a four-game skid that had drained some of their early-season buzz. But they responded with a tough-minded performance on a day when nothing came easily for either offense.
Paris, a 5-foot-9 guard, had matched her previous season high of 15 points in a loss at No. 9 Virginia Tech last weekend, with much of that production coming in the fourth quarter. Two games later, she pushed past that mark in another marquee matchup.
”I came in and I was just trying to do what I could to help the team win,” Paris said. ”When I was open, I drove, I shot and I tried to find my teammates. I guess once the first shot went in, it was easy from there on.”
That included her confident driving score for a 45-40 lead with 6:55 left, followed by her burying a huge 3-pointer on the next play to push the margin to eight – which had Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey burning a timeout while Paris’ teammates gathered for a quick midcourt celebration of her burst.
Moments later, she answered a 3-pointer by Sonia Citron by running past Maddy Westbeld for a scooping left-handed drive.
”We lost her, especially in transition,” Ivey said. ”I thought she came out with a ton of confidence. … I think she got whatever she wanted: she got to the rim, she made wide-open looks. But she was a really big momentum-booster for them.”
Notre Dame (12-2, 3-1) got no closer than five again, with UNC winning despite shooting just 35.6%.
The offensive grind was particularly surprising for the Fighting Irish, who entered this game ranked ninth nationally in scoring (84.1) and fifth in shooting percentage (.498). Notre Dame finished the game shooting 28.1% (16 for 57), including just 2 for 22 from behind the arc.
Olivia Miles had 15 points and seven rebounds to lead Notre Dame, which had entered Sunday as one of two unbeaten teams in ACC play.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish had been off since last weekend’s blowout win against Boston College – which followed that by upsetting No. 10 North Carolina State on the road Thursday – and needed a win to stay alongside No. 19 Duke (4-0) in the league standings.
”I thought we had some good looks,” Ivey said. ”They just didn’t fall tonight.”
UNC: The Tar Heels’ season start was marked comeback wins against then-No. 18 Oregon and then-No. 5 Iowa State in November that helped UNC vault to No. 6 in the AP Top 25. The recent skid had given the Tar Heels their first 0-3 start in ACC play under their fourth-year coach, but they defended well – notably with an active matchup zone using what Banghart described as an ”amoeba” shape-shifting style.
Notre Dame had scored at least 63 points and shot at least 42.6% in every game before Sunday. … Lauren Ebo had a career-high 19 rebounds for the Irish. … UNC made 10 of 12 free throws in the final three-plus minutes to protect the margin. … Notre Dame shot a combined 5 of 30 in the first and third quarters.
Notre Dame: Home against Wake Forest on Thursday.
UNC: At Virginia on Thursday.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25