Notre Dame’s offensive struggles continue at home
Brian Plamondon | Thursday, March 3, 2016
No. 7 Miami dominated Notre Dame from the opening tip at Purcell Pavilion on its way to a 68-50 victory over the Irish.
The Hurricanes (24-5, 13-4 ACC) scored the first 12 points of the game and jumped out to a 21-3 lead just over six minutes into the game.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they win the national championship, first of all,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “They’re really good. And they’re really old and their men were playing against our boys I thought most of the night. We can’t get off to a start like that and try and dig out of a hole against a team like that.”
Notre Dame (19-10, 10-7 ACC) never looked comfortable during the game, with leading scorer and junior guard Demetrius Jackson starting the game 2-for-11 from the field while junior guard Steve Vasturia missed all nine of his shot attempts.
“When your guards can’t get going like that — and I love my guards, and our guards have been key — we won’t beat many teams,” Brey said.
The Irish were able to bounce back to a degree, at one point closing the gap to 29-22 late in the first half with an 8-0 run. The Hurricanes would counter with a 6-0 run, however, making the halftime deficit 13. Notre Dame would only get within nine points from that point on.
“We gave ourselves chances,” Brey said. “It would have been interesting to see how the second half would have been if we didn’t turn it over three times in the last three minutes, when you’re getting a bit of momentum.”
Senior forward Zach Auguste led the way for the Irish, finishing the night with 18 points and 11 rebounds. With just under 10 minutes to play, Auguste and sophomore forward Bonzie Colson had 25 of Notre Dame’s 38 points.
“I thought Zach Auguste, again, in an ugly afternoon was just a warrior,” Brey said. “He’s been flat-out fabulous.”
With the win, the Hurricanes tied No. 8 North Carolina atop the ACC standings. They were led by senior guard Angel Rodriguez with 19 points. Senior guard Sheldon McClellan added 17 points while senior forward Tonye Jekiri was good for 14 points and nine rebounds.
Despite the loss, Notre Dame can still earn a double bye in the ACC tournament next week. With Pittsburgh’s loss to Virginia Tech Wednesday night, the Irish now just need a win and a Duke loss to North Carolina on Saturday.
Looking to salvage the double bye, Notre Dame now looks to its Saturday matinee tilt with North Carolina State.
NC State (15-15, 4-12) has struggled this season after notching 22 wins last season and reaching the Sweet Sixteen. Despite their poor showing on the year, the Wolfpack did upset Miami on Jan. 30.
The Wolfpack are led by junior guard Anthony Barber, who has scored 30 or more points eight times this year on his way to averaging 23.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Outside of Barber, the Wolfpack have threats in freshman guard Maverick Rowan (12.7 ppg), sophomore forward Abdul-Malik Abu (12.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and freshman guard Caleb Martin (11.3 ppg).
“Saturday, I want it bad for Zach and [senior forward A.J. Burgett],” Brey said. “… I’d love to win for them and have a little juice going into D.C.”
Tip-off is scheduled for noon Saturday.
After Senior Day, Notre Dame will have a few days off before the ACC tournament begins Tuesday. The Irish will either play their first game Wednesday in the second round or Thursday in the quarterfinals.