Notre Dame suffers another conference road loss, falls 65-58 to Wake Forest
Joseph Monardo | Saturday, January 25, 2014
Notre Dame’s most recent ACC contest followed the script that has become all too familiar on the road for the Irish. Down for most of the game, the Irish threatened to steal the decision in the final minutes before falling short, this time 65-58 to Wake Forest.
Irish graduate student center Garrick Sherman made a pair of tough shots in the lane in the game’s final 1:08 before fouling out, but Notre Dame (11-9, 2-5 ACC) could not pull off the comeback victory. Sherman led the losing charge with 20 points and six rebounds, while Irish senior guard Eric Atkins contributed 13 points and six rebounds.
“You got to take your hat off to Wake Forest,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “They made really big shots at key times in the last couple of minutes. I love our group, again we put ourselves in position. We weren’t playing that great offensively but we still found a way to be in position to maybe steal a road win. I thought Wake made big time shots. There were clutch offensive positions that took away any hope for us.”
Trailing by eight points with 7:37 to play, Notre Dame used a six-point run to claw back into the contest. Atkins powered the run with consecutive baskets and an assist on a layup by Irish freshman guard Steve Vasturia. After trailing for nearly 11 straight minutes, the Irish captured a share of the lead with 3:50 remaining after freshman guard Demetrius Jackson converted the back end of a pair of free throws. A Sherman free throw a minute-and-a-half later put the Irish up one, but Wake Forest (14-6, 4-3) responded with a basket and a pair of free throws to open up a three-point lead it would not relinquish. The Demon Deacons made several free throws in the closing minute to secure the win.
Wake Forest took advantage of Notre Dame’s league-worst three-point defense, making five of 17 attempts from behind the arc. The Irish hit only two three-point shots in the game on 16 attempts.
“I give credit to their defense,” Brey said. “We had some great looks early in the game. You got to make a couple of those to feel good on the road. We could never make enough three-point shots to feel like you are in a pretty good groove. That’s a weapon of our offense. That’s a staple, we need to make some threes.”
Both teams came out of the gate slowly, but Notre Dame worked its way into a 14-13 lead 10:22 into the game. The Irish offense stalled from there, though, as Wake Forest embarked on a 12-2 run to open up a nine-point lead with 3:42 remaining. Neither team managed any points in the subsequent minutes until Atkins poured in five points in the final 51 seconds of the half to cut the deficit to four.
Wake Forest led 25-21 entering the break, largely on the strength of sophomore forward Devin Thomas. Thomas had 11 first-half points while making all five of his field goal attempts. Sherman and Atkins led the Irish in the half, with eight points and seven points, respectively. The Irish only managed three assists in the half, but forced six Demon Deacon turnovers.
Irish senior forward Tom Knight made his return after missing several weeks with illness, and the Irish turned to him early off the bench with sophomore forward Austin Burgett out following a cardiac episode that occurred Notre Dame’s matchup with Florida State on Tuesday. Knight scored eight points on 4-for-4 shooting and snagged three rebounds in 17 minutes in the game. Irish sophomore forward Zach Auguste made his fourth start of the season and scored four points to go with seven rebounds.
The Irish began the second half with back-to-back buckets from Sherman and Auguste to even the score in a hurry. The squads traded buckets over the first 10 minutes of the second half from there. Wake Forest opened up its biggest lead of the half to that point with 9:45 remaining when a Devin Thomas layup put the home team up eight. After Notre Dame responded, Wake Forest extended its lead to eight again with 7:37 left in the game.
After scoring no points in the first half, Irish junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. The three Irish freshmen combined for only three points in 54 total minutes. Jackson scored one point while attempting no shots in 22 minutes, while Vasturia had two points and four rebounds in 30 minutes. Freshman forward V.J. Beacham had zero points in two minutes of action. Thomas finished with 21 points and six rebounds to lead the Demon Deacons in the contest.
“He’s a really good player because he has got that wide body and it’s hard to get around him and then he spins off you,” Brey said. “He is really crafty. He is just a heck of a young player in this league.”
After failing in its third attempt to notch the team’s first ACC road victory, Notre Dame returns home to face Virginia on Tuesday at the Purcell Pavilion at 9 p.m.
Contact Joseph Monardo at email@example.com