Irish travel to take on Seminoles
Marek Mazurek | Friday, February 26, 2016
Following a bounce-back win against Wake Forest, No. 23 Notre Dame will stay on the road to face Florida State this Saturday.
With the victory over the Demon Deacons, the Irish (19-8, 10-5 ACC) sit tied for fourth place in the conference as it chases a double-bye in the ACC tournament. The Seminoles (16-12, 6-10), meanwhile, are not in contention for a bye but continue to fight for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Irish head coach Mike Brey said the Seminoles are still a dangerous team as they fight for a postseason berth.
“I know they’ve got young guards,” Brey said. “They’re fighting for their NCAA tournament life. They are in a tough stretch right now — they’ve [had] to play at Duke.
“That’s been a tough place,” he said. “We’ve played a great game there two years ago, went right down to the wire. I think they hit a shot with about 10 seconds left to beat us there. But certainly it’ll be an important game for them as far as the NCAA, but it’s important game for us as far as positioning.”
Florida State is led by freshman guards Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon. Both players average over 15 points per game. Sophomore guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes also averages over 11 points per game to give the Seminoles three solid scorers from the guard position.
The Seminoles are currently on a five-game losing streak after winning four in a row starting the end of January. They also boast wins over Virginia and Clemson.
As the Irish make a run at the double-bye, they will continue to rely on captains senior forward Zach Auguste and junior guard Demetrius Jackson. Auguste had 18 points and 12 rebounds in Notre Dame’s 69-58 win over Wake Forest. Auguste pulled down his 700th career rebound in the contest and now has a double-double in 14 games this year. Jackson, on the other hand, had 15 points, five assists and six rebounds. Brey praised Jackson’s performance and ability to score in key situations.
“I thought he was really poised,” Brey said. “He defended no matter what was going on offensively, especially in the first half. And it’s only a matter of time. I thought we did a better job of ball screening for him and putting him in some areas where he could drive it. But he sensed his team needed it and he delivered.”
The contest against the Seminoles wraps up a three-game road stretch for the Irish, and the team has been away from South Bend since Tuesday night. After Saturday, however, Notre Dame will finish the season with two games at home against No. 12 Miami and North Carolina State to end the regular season. Brey said the long stretch of road games can be difficult to manage.
“It’s interesting how this league is a little different from the Big East,” Brey said. “You have amazing swings, [both] home [and] road. A lot of teams will have four days of prep, and the opponent they are playing maybe only has one day. That seems to come up a little bit. Of course, Florida State plays Thursday night in Durham, and we’ll be in Tallahassee.”
Brey also said being on the road during the beginning of midterms week presents a challenge for the team, but praised his team’s — particularly the freshmen’s — ability to plan ahead.
“Our academic advisor Pat Hums will travel with us on [this] stretch if we have to proctor any exams,” Brey said. “We’ll do some study hall sessions on the road. Luckily my three freshman are amazingly organized students and gifted students. They have hit the ground running right in summer school, so I’m very pleased with them handling their business.”
Notre Dame tips off against Florida State on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Center.