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Men’s Basketball

Irish look to establish winning streak at Miami

| Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The first road win came Sunday.

Three days later, Notre Dame visits another ACC opponent when it battles Miami tonight at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla., the midpoint in a taxing three-game road trip that has the Irish traveling more than 5,800 miles.

Irish junior forward Pat Connaughton drives to the basket during Notre Dame's 68-64 win against Clemson on Feb. 11.Emily McConville
Irish junior forward Pat Connaughton drives to the basket during Notre Dame’s 68-64 win against Clemson on Feb. 11.

After downing Boston College, 73-69, in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Sunday night, the Irish (14-12, 5-8 ACC) returned to campus for a few days before hitting the road for Florida. Following Wednesday’s matchup with the Hurricanes (12-13, 3-9) — a 9 p.m. start — Notre Dame will charter back to campus and return around 4 a.m. Thursday morning, before traveling again for a Saturday afternoon tilt on the road against Virginia.

This is Notre Dame’s first three-game road trip since the 2010-11 season.

“We can’t stay on the road. We have a class-missed policy. So we will be back,” Irish coach Mike Brey said Monday during a teleconference. “Most teams would go right from Miami to Charlottesville, [Va.,] probably on Thursday. We’ve got to be back. It’s midterm week, got some work to do.”

With the victory over Boston College, the Irish have won back-to-back games for the first time since they bested Canisius and Duke on Dec. 29 and Jan. 4, respectively. Notre Dame hasn’t strung together three consecutive wins since downing Santa Clara, Army and Cornell from Nov. 22 through Dec. 1.

“We got two league wins in a row and little steps for us,” Brey said. “I think where we’ve made some strides here in the last week to 10 days is in our offensive efficiency. We’ve simplified some things.”

The Irish shot 50.9 percent from the field versus the Eagles and tallied 14 assists compared to seven turnovers. Against Clemson on Feb. 11, Notre Dame mustered just 40.0-percent shooting but still managed to defeat the Tigers — who boasted the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation — 68-64 in double overtime.

Another stout defense awaits Wednesday in Miami, where the Hurricanes play almost exclusively zone defense. Miami ranks 11th in the nation in scoring defense at 59.6 points per game and has held its opponents to fewer than 60 points in four of its last five games.

“It’s a little bit of a Syracuse mentality because you’re going to play against a zone for 40 minutes,” Brey said. “So the mental state of dealing with the zone and being patient and getting touches in different areas of the floor, you’ve gotta be disciplined with that.”

Despite limiting its opponents offensively of late, Miami has struggled to score itself, losing three of those four games in which the opponent didn’t crack 60. The Hurricanes average 61.0 points per game, a mark that ranks 339th in the nation (out of 345 teams), per NCAA.com.

Miami fell to Virginia Tech, 52-45, on Saturday after knocking off Florida State, 77-73, on Feb. 10 in what Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga bluntly described as an up-and-down week.

“The night we put the ball in the basket we won,” Larranaga said Monday. “The night we didn’t put the ball in the basket, we lost. So I would have preferred we shot the ball consistently well in both games, but obviously that didn’t happen.”

Brey said he’s still wary of the Hurricanes on offense because of their rebounding ability.

“Sometimes a great play for them is a missed shot, because they’ve got guys who can go up and get it,” he said. “And we’ve had a little problem controlling the defensive boards at times. So there’s where my concern is. I think we can force the first miss. … Can we get the first miss though?

“It’s been an Achilles heel of ours and it worries me for Wednesday.”

Brey said Monday that freshman guard Demetrius Jackson, who had been away from the team for two games to focus on what Brey termed “academic habits,” would rejoin the team and travel to Miami.

“[He’s] caught up academically,” Brey said. “Needed some time to get his academics straight, get some work handed in. We kept him home this weekend so he could catch up. Really pleased with how he’s handled the week kinda getting back in gear academically.”

Notre Dame tips off against Miami at 9 p.m. tonight at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla.

Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]

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About Mike Monaco

Senior Sports Writer Mike Monaco is a senior majoring in Film, Television and Theatre with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy as well as Business Economics. The O’Neill Hall native hails from the Boston area and is an aspiring play-by-play broadcaster.

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