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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame wrap up short homestand with matchup with Miami

| Friday, February 21, 2020

Notre Dame (16-10, 7-8 ACC) will wrap up its two-game homestand with a matchup against Miami (14-12, 6-10 ACC) Sunday.

Coming off a draining four-game stretch after which head coach Mike Brey said his team was “exhausted,” the Irish begin a slightly easier portion of their schedule. The team defeated Clemson and North Carolina, but fell to Virginia and Duke on the road. Notre Dame beat North Carolina in their last contest, a come-from-behind win capped by a game-winning 3-pointer from sophomore forward Nate Laszewski.

“This group, I think they’ve got some toughness about them,” Brey said.

Miami has played well as of late, winning their last three games — including a triple-overtime contest with Virginia Tech in their last game Wednesday. Notre Dame will have slightly more rest, not having played since Monday night. However, the Hurricanes have slightly more depth, usually playing with a nine-man rotation, while injuries have forced the Irish to normally use just seven players.

Nathanial George | The Observer
Notre Dame senior forward John Mooney makes a reverse layup in a game against Syracuse at Purcell Pavilion on January 22.

The Hurricanes are led by their veteran guards. Senior Dejan Vasiljevic and juniors Chris Lykes and Kameron McGusty all average more than 13 points per game, and that experience has shown this season. However, the team has been inconsistent. Before this recent three-game win streak, they had lost seven of their last eight games.

Notre Dame will need strong guard play to counter Miami, but their guards have been inconsistent this season. In their last game, a 77-76 victory over North Carolina, sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb and senior guard TJ Gibbs combined for 34 points, but the game before, at Duke, Notre Dame’s starting guards scored just six points. Additionally, graduate student guard Rex Pflueger, although only scoring three points, made some huge defensive plays down the stretch against North Carolina.

“His scoring is a bonus, but he passes and finds people, his instincts defensively are just fabulous, and his nose for the ball,” Brey said after the game. He has been one of the best defenders for the Irish all season.

Notre Dame’s forwards have been much more consistent, led by the always-reliable senior John Mooney, who averages 16.2 points and 12.7 rebounds, but may also have a challenge, with Miami having one of the tallest centers in the ACC in seven-foot tall redshirt junior Rodney Miller Jr. Additionally, senior forward Juwan Durham has played very well over his last few games despite limited minutes, as Brey often prefers a small-ball lineup with four guards and Mooney at center.

Miami beat Notre Dame in their only matchup last season, a 62-47 triumph in Florida; Miami has won the last two games against Notre Dame. The last time the Irish beat the Hurricanes was in 2017.

Notre Dame, now seventh in the ACC, is looking to climb in the standings over the last five regular season games before the ACC tournament begins March 10 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The game tips off at 6 p.m. Sunday at Purcell Pavilion, and will be broadcasted on the ACC Network. 

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