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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame falls short in comeback attempt, loses 71-64 at Miami

| Thursday, February 20, 2014

Miami utilized a hot start to take a large first-half lead and held on late for a 71-64 victory over Notre Dame in the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla., on Wednesday night.

Irish junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton releases a shot during Notre Dame’s 68-64 double-overtime win over Clemson on Feb. 11. Joseph Monardo | The Observer

Irish junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton releases a shot during Notre Dame’s 68-64 double-overtime win over Clemson on Feb. 11.

The Hurricanes (13-13, 4-9 ACC) entered the week averaging 61.0 points per game – to rank 339th out of 345 Division I teams – and had scored 55 points or fewer in three of their previous four games. But Miami made its first four 3-point attempts Wednesday and ended the first half with a shooting percentage  of 61.9 – one that included a 6-for-8 performance from 3-point range – to break out to a 38-26 halftime lead.

The Hurricanes cooled down in the second half, however, shooting 37 percent. That mark, coupled with strong performances from Irish junior forward Pat Connaughton and freshman guard Demetrius Jackson, gave Notre Dame (14-13, 5-9) a chance to steal a win.

After falling behind 54-39 with 11:09 remaining, the Irish worked their way back into the game and pulled within one point at 63-62 when freshman guard Steve Vasturia hit a 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining.

Miami senior guard Rion Brown hit two free throws to make the score 65-62 before a Jackson layup again cut the deficit to one with 22 seconds left. But after two more Brown free throws made the score 67-64, Jackson missed a contested layup on the other end and the Irish would not score the rest of the evening.

“I’m really proud of our group, because nothing really felt great tonight,” Irish coach Mike Brey told UND.com. “And you give Miami credit – they shot the heck out of it, especially to start the game. But we had three freshmen on the floor to make that run back and they made big plays for us. It’s something to build on. We’ve got to have a short memory … but I’m proud of our group because we sure put ourselves in a position.”

Irish freshman guard Steve Vasturia controls the ball during Notre Dame’s 68-64 win (2OT) over Clemson in the Purcell Pavilion on Feb. 11.Annette Sayre

Irish freshman guard Steve Vasturia controls the ball during Notre Dame’s 68-64 win (2OT) over Clemson in the Purcell Pavilion on Feb. 11.

Connaughton scored eight of Notre Dame’s first 10 points and shot 6-for-7 from 3-point range to finish with 22 points, just two shy of his career high.

Meanwhile, Jackson scored a career-high 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting. The Mishawaka product also notched five assists and had just one turnover in his first appearance after a two-game absence due to academic reasons.

“He had a tough week,” Brey said. “He got caught up academically. I think he’s more mature and more grown up. And one of the real positives of tonight is that he is back in a rhythm and part of our rotation. We started him in the second half and he was the guy that really energized us to make us feel like we had a chance to do it tonight.”

Irish senior guard Eric Atkins and senior center Garrick Sherman both struggled shooting the ball Wednesday. Atkins picked up two fouls in the game’s opening 13 minutes and finished with just five points on 2-for-8 shooting. Sherman, battling a finger injury, scored seven points and made just three of his nine field goal attempts.

Brown finished with a team-high 21 points for the Hurricanes as Miami secured its first home conference victory of the season in its seventh chance.

Next on the docket for the Irish is a trip to Charlottesville, Va., and a Saturday-afternoon matchup with No. 14 Virginia. The Cavaliers (22-5, 13-1) lead the ACC after No. 1 Syracuse’s loss to Boston College on Wednesday and handed Notre Dame its worst defeat of the season, a 68-53 loss in Purcell Pavilion on Jan. 28.

“We’ve got to flush this one quickly,” Brey said. “We’ve got a chance to play a nationally-ranked team on their floor and a team that thumped us in our place. That’s the worst beating we’ve gotten. So we’ve got to move forward quickly … tune it up a little [Thursday in practice] and play again on the road.”

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu

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