Irish to host No. 7 Miami with ACC seeding on the line
Marek Mazurek | Wednesday, March 2, 2016
With their hopes of a double-bye in the ACC tournament up in the air, the Irish return to Purcell Pavilion to take on No. 7 Miami on Wednesday night.
After losses in two of its last three games, Notre Dame (19-9, 10-6) sits in a fifth-place tie in the ACC standings, one game behind No. 4 Virginia and No. 11 Louisville. To earn a top-four seed, the Irish need to win both of their remaining games. Irish head coach Mike Brey said he’s confident in his team’s positioning for both the ACC and NCAA tournaments going into the final week of the regular season.
“I love our position,” Brey said. “I love what we can play for in [Washington] D.C., and I certainly love our resume for [the NCAA tournament]. It’s nice to have a really solid resume two weeks out from selection Sunday.”
Junior guard Demetrius Jackson also stressed the importance of getting a double-bye and cited what it did for last year’s team.
“Just having a feel for what it did for us last year,” Jackson said. “We had the time to go over some things as a group and re-collect, and I think that helped us going into the tournament.”
The next hurdle for the Irish is the home matchup against the Hurricanes (23-5, 12-4). The two teams have already faced each other this year, with Miami beating Notre Dame, 79-70, in early February. Brey said having already lost to the Hurricanes should provide the team with extra motivation.
“I think you’re a little bit familiar, and I would think there’s a little chip on our shoulder because they thumped us pretty good down there,” Brey said. “We didn’t have much of an answer for them. They’re a heck of team. They’re old, they’ve been together, they’ve won together. They’ve pointed to this year as being their year. And they’re playing for a regular season championship, and we’re playing for a double-bye so [there is] a lot on the line Wednesday.”
In order to knock off Miami the second time around, Brey said the team has to focus on finding an offensive rhythm. The Irish have been one of the most efficient offenses in the country, but have failed to score 70 points in three consecutive games.
“I think we have to get back to offensive stuff,” Brey said. “Passing the ball, getting guys in better positions and stressing breakdown drills. … Our offensive efficiency will have to be back in gear. That’s who we’ve been as a program. That’s what this team has been.”
Junior guard Steve Vasturia said defensive improvement would be a key to Wednesday night’s matchup as well.
“I think [Miami has] a lot of weapons,” Vasturia said. “They’re really athletic, they can get to the rim. Last game, we had trouble guarding them. They did whatever they wanted to offensively. We’re going to have to do much better keeping them out of the paint and off the glass.”
Another factor that should help the Irish is the home crowd. The Irish are 13-1 this season at home, including wins over No. 8 North Carolina and No. 11 Louisville.
“We’re really comfortable, especially being back home,” Jackson said. “Our crowds have been great this year. … When you’ve got a big crowd behind you, supporting you, that’s really energized us this year. We just try to use it to our advantage and go out and compete.”
Notre Dame has also seemed comfortable bouncing back from losses. The team has not lost two games in a row this season, and Vasturia said he was confident that trend would continue.
“Anytime you lose, you want to get back out on the court as fast as you can and get that bad taste out of your mouth,” Vasturia said. “And that’s definitely what we’re going to do.”
The Irish tip-off against the Hurricanes on Wednesday at Purcell Pavilion at 7 p.m.