Notre Dame falters against veteran Miami team
Alex Carson | Thursday, February 4, 2016
No. 17 Miami (Fla.) rolled to a victory Wednesday night in Coral Gables, Florida, downing Notre Dame 79-70 in a game in which the Irish trailed by double digits for all but the final two seconds of the second half.
While the Hurricanes (17-4, 6-3 ACC) led through most of the first 17 minutes, the Irish (15-7, 6-4) kept things close in a tight battle. Notre Dame led twice as neither team was ahead by more than six for most of the opening half.
But in the final three minutes of the opening 20, holding just a 32-29 advantage, Miami made the run that gave it a double-digit lead it didn’t surrender until closing time. A quick 7-0 spurt widened the Hurricanes’ lead to 10 in a minute, and they continued the momentum to go ahead 12 at halftime, 45-33.
Notre Dame wouldn’t get closer than that until the final 65 seconds of the game.
Miami maintained its advantage in the second half, taking advantage of a poor game in the paint for the Irish, who missed a number of looks around the bucket in the defeat. The Hurricanes held their largest lead of the night with 8:06 to play, ahead 65-45, and Brey threw in the towel before the under-4 media timeout, going to his reserves with just under five minutes left.
While the Irish offense, one of the nation’s top teams in efficiency, struggled on the night, the Hurricanes’ didn’t. Irish head coach Mike Brey praised the Hurricanes’ veteran leadership as a key to their victory.
“I think their maturity and age kind of showed tonight,” Brey said. “We just couldn’t get enough on the defensive end to make it interesting.”
While Miami had two redshirt seniors, guards Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez, and redshirt junior forward Kamari Murphy in double figures, it was a true freshman who topped the scoring charts Wednesday, as Hurricanes forward Anthony Lawrence Jr. had 18 points on 4-for-4 shooting from behind the 3-point line.
“He was fabulous. He really hurt us,” Brey said of Lawrence’s performance. “It’s one of those things where maybe you can live with him getting some looks, and you’re worried about the other guys, and he jumps up and really hurts you.”
Despite starting with an experienced quintet of juniors and seniors, Brey said his team didn’t play experienced in defeat.
“I thought we were young tonight,” Brey said. “We have another old team coming at us on Saturday. I thought we were a little young tonight. Maybe we can grow up quickly here before the Tar Heels come to town.”
Sophomore forward Bonzie Colson led Notre Dame with 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting off the bench but earned himself a technical foul in the second half after getting in a scuffle with Hurricanes senior center Tonye Jekiri. Aside from Colson’s performance, not much more worked for the Irish at the offensive end of the floor — no other teammate shot better than 50 percent while taking more than three looks from the field.
For the second straight road game, Notre Dame’s offense looked out of sync, and the strong performance seen in junior guard Demetrius Jackson’s return Sunday failed to materialize. Jackson finished with just six points on 3-for-11 shooting from the field.
Junior guard V.J. Beachem dropped 14, but he shot just 2-for-7 from behind the 3-point arc, while senior forward Zach Auguste followed up a double-double Sunday just a rebound shy in Coral Gables, going for 12 points and nine rebounds.
While the struggles of Notre Dame’s starting five were obvious, the night may have best been summed up by junior forward Austin Torres’ first touches, late in the second half. Torres first blew an open layup then saw his follow-up attempt blocked as the Hurricanes forced a jump ball with the possession arrow.
Having trailed by double digits the entire half, freshman Matt Ryan scored with two seconds left to cut Miami’s lead to the final score, 79-70.
The Irish, who are a perfect 6-0 this season following a loss, return to action Saturday at home against No. 2 North Carolina, who lost Monday against No. 19 Louisville. ESPN’s College GameDay will be in town Saturday morning prior to the evening’s 7 p.m. tipoff.
Despite the AP Poll ranking the Tar Heels at No. 2, the coaches poll kept North Carolina No. 1 this week, giving the Irish a chance to record their first win over a top-ranked team since they defeated Syracuse, 67-58, on Jan. 21, 2012, at Purcell Pavilion.