Banking on a bounce-back: Irish welcome struggling Boston College to Purcell
Manuel De Jesus | Tuesday, February 3, 2015
After Notre Dame dropped two spots in the AP poll Monday due to Saturday’s upset loss to Pittsburgh, the now-No. 10 Irish will play host to a struggling Boston College at Purcell Pavilion tonight.
The Irish (20-3, 8-2 ACC) are off to their best start since 1978-79, when Notre Dame also posted a 20-3 mark. After its previous two losses, Notre Dame has bounced back quickly, posting an 11-game winning streak after its loss to Providence on Nov. 23, and the Irish had a five-game winning streak heading into the Pittsburgh game after losing to No. 2 Virginia on Jan. 10.
Looking at the box score from Saturday’s 76-72 loss, Notre Dame continued its torrid shooting, hitting 53 percent from the field and almost 40 percent from behind the arc, but most of the those shots came during a late surge in the second half, led by nine points from senior guard Jerian Grant. However, the run at the end of the game was not enough to edge the Panthers, even though the Irish led at one point. Irish coach Mike Brey said it was Notre Dame’s defense, not offense, that held the team back.
“They were really in a groove offensively, and I think our defense hurt us today, we could never get enough stops to really win the game,” Brey said. “We were scoring the whole time and this group has been able to get stops, especially in the last seven or eight minutes, to usually escape. We got a couple of stops, but could never get enough to really believe, and then they got really confident offensively.”
Back at home against the Eagles (9-11, 1-7), the Irish defense will go up against one of the less efficient attacks in the nation. Boston College is ranked 257th out of 345 teams in scoring (64.2 points per game) and 190th in field goal percentage (43.2 percent). They are led by junior guard Olivier Hanlan, who holds the team-high in scoring with 16.4 points per game.
While Hanlan’s average is close to that of Grant, Notre Dame’s leading scorer (17.3 PPG), the rest of the Eagles have struggled to keep up in scoring efficiency. No one on Boston College’s roster who has attempted more than 100 shots has a field goal percentage above 46.3 percent, while all of Notre Dame’s starters are shooting at least 48.3 percent from the floor.
In addition, the Eagles are shooting just over 30 percent from beyond the arc, while the Irish are making 40 percent of their 3-point field goals. Brey’s implementation of a smaller five-guard offense has been key to Notre Dame’s offense, which is ranked second in the nation in field goal percentage, he said.
“I think what had helped us was going with a small lineup and the floor was more open,” Brey said.
The Eagles, who won just three of their last 11 games, are allowing their opponents to score over 64 points per game, which is ranked 137th in the country. The Irish, on the other hand, have scored at least 72 points in their last five games.
As the second half of the season continues, sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson is convinced the team will only continue to get better.
“I definitely think we have a strong confidence and swagger about this team,” Jackson said. “The best part about our team is that we can continue to get better and we haven’t reached our peak yet. Guys are just striving to get better everyday.”
The Irish will tip off at 7 p.m tonight against the Eagles at Purcell Pavilion.