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Men’s Basketball

Brey praises unselfish Irish, looks to stay hot against Hurricanes

| Friday, February 12, 2021

There will be no love lost between the Notre Dame men’s basketball team and Miami (Fla.) when the Irish host the Hurricanes on Valentine’s Day. Notre Dame (8-10, 5-7 ACC) will look to stay hot against “The U (7-11, 3-10 ACC) after winning five of their last seven games.

Most recently the Irish took down the Duke Blue Devils by a score of 93-89 behind a career-high 28 points from junior transfer guard Cormac Ryan. The win meant Notre Dame has won at both Kentucky and Duke this season, a feat that Coach Mike Brey claimed has not happened before and won’t happen again [at Notre Dame], certainly not while [he is] alive in a press conference following the game. The last team to beat both the Wildcats at Rupp Arena and Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the same season was No. 1-ranked North Carolina in the 2007-08 season.

The Irish now turn their attention to Miami, a team they beat 73-59 on Jan. 24. Junior guard Prentiss Hubb showed up big in that matchup, tallying 19 points and nine assists. Junior and graduate student forwards Nate Laszewski and Juwan Durham added 16 points apiece, as the first-string Irish players answered Brey’s challenge when he benched them in favor of a second unit — consisting of Ryan, graduate student forward Nik Djogo, freshman forwards Tony Sanders Jr. and Matt Zona and walk-on sophomore guard Elijah Morgan — that had outplayed them in practice.

Notre Dame shot the ball very well against Miami, shooting 53.9% from the field and 55.6% from three-point range. The Irish were also very disciplined defensively, allowing the Hurricanes to shoot just 38.7% from the field and a dismal 13.6% from three while only committing eight fouls throughout the entire contest.

Brey and his team will look to replicate that effort the second time around against Miami, as well as going forward as they attempt to make a final push to improve their resume with March quickly approaching. In his press conference following the Duke game, Brey mentioned he had put together a series of good offensive and defensive clips from the three previous games that he showed the team prior to tipoff.

The last four games, we have kind of played, really, at a different level — a better level. The title of it was ‘Stay the Course’; just stay the course. I know we didn’t get the other night, he said in reference to Notre Dame’s 82-80 collapse against Georgia Tech that saw the Irish outscored by 17 points in the second half, but I think we are playing pretty darn well. Let’s not panic, let’s be ready to compete again and I think we got a great opportunity.”

Courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics
Irish graduate. student forward Juwan Durham, left, and junior transfer guard Trey Wertz contest a shot during Notre Dame’s 93-89 win over Duke Tuesday. It is the first win for the Irish over the Blue Devils in more than five years.

Notre Dame has the chance to move within one game of .500 with a win, both overall and in the ACC. In a down year for the ACC, these late-season conference games will be extremely important in determining seeding for the ACC tournament. The team’s success at this crucial juncture of the season is dependent on their unselfishness, an attribute that Brey praised following the Duke win.

Our unselfishness is really neat to see how contagious it is, he said. You can coach that a little bit, but that’s got to be a little bit innate and come from a group that takes ownership of itself.

The Irish assisted on 19 of their 28 field goals against Miami in the first matchup, and they will hope to follow that model to another win on Sunday when the Hurricanes make their way to frigid South Bend. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. on the ACC Network.

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