Notre Dame’s young inside-outside combination of Brianna Turner and Lindsay Allen combined for the best game of their career on Thursday night.
And the Irish needed that to beat an inspired North Carolina team at a raucous Carmichael Arena.
The freshman Turner tied her season high with 29 points while the sophomore Allen added a career-high 24 as the No. 7 Irish held off the No. 12 Tar Heels, 89-79.
The result came on a night All-American Jewell Loyd had only eight points for the Irish (16-2, 4-1 ACC), breaking a streak of 60 straight double-figure efforts.
UNC (15-3, 2-2) got 20 points from Allisha Gray, who sat out 10 minutes in the first half with an injury to her right knee, while Stephanie Mavunga added 13 with 11 rebounds for her 18th career double-double and sixth of the season.
Freshman Jamie Cherry came off the bench with 10 points for UNC.
Turner pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds and tied her career high with seven blocks. Allen had a career-high nine assists.
“(UNC is a) Top 10 team – they’re really talented,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw, whose team leads the series 4-1 and is 4-0 on the road against ranked teams this season. “I was just so happy from the way we came back from a deficit in the first half. We held our poise.
“Lindsay just managed the game so well. And what can you say about our freshman Brianna Turner – 29 and 18. Had she not missed all those free throws (9 for 16) she would have really had a good game.”
Notre Dame shot 50 percent to the Tar Heels’ 37.3 and won the rebound battle 46-38. The Irish committed 16 turnovers to UNC’s 11.
“We’re really disappointed,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “That’s all I can say. Turner was tough. We made a good run at them, but we didn’t have enough firepower. And Allen hurt us a lot. We’ll just regroup and move on.
“The effort was good. We just had trouble keeping people out there (because of foul trouble). We played hard. We just didn’t get it done.”
The Irish led 42-39 at halftime behind 16 points from Allen. There were eight ties and four lead changes in the period.
The Tar Heels scored 10 straight points, ending on a Jessica Washington layup, to take a 34-23 lead with 5:28 left in the first half. But the Irish responded with 11 straight – seven by Allen – to tie the score at the 2:54 mark.
Notre Dame’s biggest lead was 14 on a follow shot from Turner that made it 64-50 with 12:50 left.
“I really tried to stay on the glass,” Turner said. “(Mavunga) is a good rebounder, so I really tried to stay on it and box out. I just really tried to get in the right spot, jump high, and don’t tip the ball but just grab it with two hands.”
But the Tar Heels fought back hard, closing the gap to 78-77 on a rare Mavunga 3-pointer with 4:29 to go before the visitors responded with nine straight to put it away.
“(Turner) is just really good at finishing around the basket,” Mavunga said. “And the refs called a lot of fouls. I missed a lot of shots that I really should have made.”
The Tar Heels play at Clemson on Sunday at 2, while the Irish host Tennessee on Monday night.