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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame looks to maintain momentum against Wake Forest

| Friday, February 28, 2020

Notre Dame (18-10, 9-8 ACC) looks to continue their late-season push when they travel to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for a matchup with Wake Forest (12-15, 5-12 ACC) on Saturday afternoon. The Irish have been playing well as of late, winning their last three games, two of them on last second shots. Senior guard T.J. Gibbs came up clutch by making a floater at the buzzer to give the Irish the win over Boston College on Wednesday night, but head coach Mike Brey was complimentary of the entire team’s effort.

“I’m really proud of our group, how we’ve grown,” Brey said. “We couldn’t win games like this or the North Carolina game at the buzzer in early January.”

Wake Forest, despite sitting 14th in the ACC, has a lot of positive momentum coming into this matchup. In their last game Tuesday night, they defeated No. 7-ranked Duke in double overtime. However, before that game, they had lost four of their last five contests. The Demon Deacons are led by senior guard Brandon Childress, who averages 15.1 points per game, and 7-foot junior center Olivier Sarr, who scores 12.9 points and grabs 8.5 rebounds a game. Wake Forest is ranked near the middle of the ACC for scoring offense, averaging 73.1 points per game, but they allow opponents 73.7 points per game. They own an 8-5 home record, while Notre Dame is just 4-6 on the road this year.

Nathanial George | The Observer

Irish graduate student guard Rex Pflueger surveys the court during Notre Dame’s 75-61 win over UCLA on Dec. 14.

Notre Dame faced Wake Forest on Jan. 29, coming away with a 90-80 victory. The Irish shot nearly 45% from the field and scored their most points in a conference game all season. However, they will need to slow down Wake Forest’s offense Saturday, as Childress scored 24 points in that game. Gibbs added 23 for the Irish that night.

The Irish are looking to solidify their position heading into the ACC tournament. Notre Dame is currently tied for fifth in the conference, but there are five teams all vying for that same spot. Finishing in fifth place would give the Irish a much simpler path to the conference tournament semifinals, which is what many analysts think they need to do in order to earn an NCAA tournament berth.

The Irish face a tough last few games of the season. After this matchup, they will end the season with two games at home, starting with No. 6-ranked Florida State before concluding with a matchup with Virginia Tech. They have been playing their best basketball lately, but will need to continue that. Brey spoke to the leadership the team has received.

“We’ve got a poise about us, and our seniors are leading us,” he said.

The Irish’s three senior captains — Gibbs, senior forward John Mooney and gradate student guard Rex Pflueger — have all been leading by example this year. Gibbs and Mooney combine for nearly 30 points per game, and Pflueger has provided tremendous leadership and defensive prowess to the Irish down the stretch.

The game tips off from Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum at 4 p.m. Saturday and will be televised on the ACC network.

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