Irish travel to Boston College with eye toward conference title
Brian Hartnett | Friday, February 20, 2015
On paper, No. 10 Notre Dame is slated to play the team with the worst record in the ACC when it travels to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, to meet Boston College on Saturday.
Yet Irish coach Mike Brey said the matchup will be anything but easy for his team.
“I expect a really hard [game] because it could make their season,” he said of the Eagles (9-16, 1-12 ACC). “ND-BC, we know the rivalry. It could be the kind of game that would make their season.”
Notre Dame (23-4, 11-3) and Boston College met at Purcell Pavilion on Feb. 4, and the Irish came away with a 71-63 victory. Notre Dame jumped out to a 25-point lead in the first half of that game, but Boston College made several second-half runs to cut the Irish lead to six before ultimately losing by eight.
Boston College’s strong second-half performance in the prior meeting between the teams has ensured that Notre Dame stay focused entering this weekend’s matchup, Brey said.
“There’s no question, they got our attention,” he said of the Eagles. “They do have guys who can make shots, if they’re having one of those days they can make double-digit 3-[pointers].
One major part of Boston College’s late run against Notre Dame earlier this month was Eagles junior guard Olivier Hanlan. Hanlan, who leads the Eagles in scoring with 18.6 points per game, scored 28 points, making six 3-pointers, against the Irish. In Boston College’s four games since playing Notre Dame, Hanlan has scored 30 or more points three times, pouring in 32 points in each of the Eagles’ last two games.
“They have a guy who can get 30 [points per game],” Brey said. “They made a run on us, and I think [Hanlan] scored 14 straight [points], so I think awareness of him [is important].”
The Irish will enter the game at full strength, as senior guard/forward and Arlington, Massachusetts, native Pat Connaughton is “full speed ahead” for Saturday’s game near his hometown, according to Brey. Connaughton was sidelined with a stomach virus early in the week, but still played in Notre Dame’s 88-75 win over Wake Forest on Tuesday, recording 13 points and four rebounds in 30 minutes of action.
“I think he’ll be fully recovered,” Brey said of Connaughton. “He lost a little weight; hopefully we can get a little bit back more on him. [Wednesday] was our off day, and I know he was able to get some rest.”
The Irish will also look to keep an eight-man rotation for Saturday’s game, Brey said. Sophomore forward Austin Torres scored five points and pulled in six rebounds in 13 minutes against the Demon Deacons, and Brey said he expects to get Torres some significant playing time on the road.
“You’re always night-to-night and foul trouble kind of presented that a little more quickly and directly [Tuesday] against Wake, but I’d like to get Torres in the game,” Brey said. “There’s energy there, and he certainly has brought it here, but I think he’s at the point now where he can bring it for us on the road too. These next two days of practice, he’s going to be in a white shirt more than he’s been in maybe lately.”
As the Irish prepare for another conference road game, they have been keeping their eyes on becoming the first of Brey’s teams to win six conference road games.
“I’ve gotten away from the special tag — maybe I’ll throw that out there a little later — but certainly to get to six road wins is a powerful thing,” Brey said. “We’ve been to five a couple of times.”
Brey said Notre Dame also has a bigger goal on its mind — the ACC regular season championship. With four conference games left to play, the Irish currently sit second in the league, 1.5 games behind No. 2 Virginia.
“It’s kept us in the moment, and it keeps you looking up,” Brey said of the regular-season crown. “I told this group the other night after the Wake game, I said, ‘Let’s keep the heat on the guys above us. Let’s just keep the heat on them and see what happens.’
“… That would be an unbelievable achievement in our program’s history. It would be as good as any achievement we’ve ever had in our program’s history if we did that.”
Notre Dame will continue its pursuit of the ACC regular-season title when the Irish meet Boston College on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.