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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame looks to even ACC record

| Tuesday, January 21, 2014

After securing a much-needed win Sunday and halting a three-game skid, Notre Dame will look to pull its conference record to .500 with a trip to Florida State tonight.

The Irish (11-7, 2-3 ACC) defeated Virginia Tech, 70-63, in the Purcell Pavilion their last time out to improve to 2-1 in home-conference contests. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has dropped both its road games in league-play, heartbreaking losses to Georgia Tech and Maryland. After struggling to protect the ball and rebound effectively in prior contests, the Irish committed only 10 turnovers and came up with 11 offensive rebounds against the Hokies (8-9, 1-4).

Irish junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton leads the break during Notre Dame’s 70-63 victory over Virginia Tech. Connaughton finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds, while averaging 14.1 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game this season.Michael Yu

Irish junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton leads the break during Notre Dame’s 70-63 victory over Virginia Tech. Connaughton finished the game with 21 points and eight rebounds, while averaging 14.1 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game this season.

 

“We are going to have to be better at that Tuesday because Florida State defends, and they are more athletic and powerful than this team,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “How we keep them off the board is going to be really interesting, and I am going to challenge our guys to do it.”

Florida State (12-5, 3-2) ranks fifth in the ACC with a scoring margin of 10.4, improving on Notre Dame’s eighth-place average of 6.6 points per game. The Seminoles have used two players off the bench to lead the way in scoring this season.

Despite not having a start between them in 17 games, senior guard Ian Miller and sophomore guard Aaron Thomas are first and second on the team in scoring with 13.4 and 12.6 points per game, respectively. Senior forward Okaro White is the leading scorer among the Florida State starters with a per-game average of 12.4 points. He leads the team in rebounds with 6.6 per game.

Notre Dame has not faced Florida State since falling to the Seminoles, 70-57, in the third round of the NCAA tournament in 2011. Brey said the Seminoles have recently shown a dangerous combination of size and shooting ability.

“They made 16 threes last time they played at home, against Maryland [on Jan. 12],” he said. “My God, I hope they can’t do that again. They shot the heck out of the ball. Even though it’s a better shooting Florida State team, they’re really big. They play some big, physical guys.

“I don’t know how much we’re going to get in the low post, so we gotta get out and ball-screen and drive and kick. My biggest concern is I think we can defend the first shot. … We always do that pretty well.”

After trotting out their seventh different starting lineup Sunday against Virginia Tech, the Irish have used a different starting five in each of their most recent three games. Junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton has been the most consistent force in the ever-changing lineup and enters tonight’s contest with five straight double-figure scoring performances.

For Connaughton and the rest of the Irish, though, Florida State’s physical defense will be a challenge.

“Florida State’s defense is going to be man-to-man, physically on you, and it’s a little bit different look,” Brey said.

Following the trip to Florida State, Notre Dame has another road game at Wake Forest on Saturday before returning home for a pair of conference matchups.

“We got two tough ones,” Brey said of the upcoming road games. “As long as we stay steady through stuff. We didn’t overreact too much to our losses. … I would hope we’re more equipped to win on the road after [Virginia Tech]. But we will really be challenged down there because they guard and get up on you and on the backboard physically.”

Looking to start a winning streak in ACC action, Notre Dame will tip off against Florida State in the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla., today at 8 p.m.

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About Joseph Monardo

Joseph Monardo is a senior from Atlanta studying International Economics. A participant in the Bologna study abroad program, Joseph likes pickup sports, fantasy baseball and trivia nights with his friends.

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