Career day from Cormac Ryan propels Notre Dame past Duke
Liam Coolican | Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Cormac Ryan had a career game, and four other Notre Dame starters scored in double figures, as the Notre Dame men’s basketball team (8-10, 5-7 ACC) won a hard fought game on the road against Duke (7-8, 5-6 ACC). The Irish battled back after trailing by 15 points in the first half to secure a much needed 93-89 victory. Ryan, who passed up a chance at the game winning shot in Saturday’s loss at Georgia Tech, was inserted back into the starting lineup and made the most of the opportunity. After missing his first three attempts from the field, the junior guard made his next eight shots, scoring a career-high 21 points in the first half alone.
“He was due,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “It’s just a matter of time with him, as he gets more and more comfortable playing for us… I just tried to wake them up a little bit. Our group, when I’ve challenged them, they’ve always responded like men.”
Ryan was quieter in the second half, but still finished with a game-high 28 points.
“The team is in a great flow right now,” Ryan said. “Everyone, myself included, is getting used to playing with each other, and we’re clicking.”
Both offenses were prolific throughout the game. Notre Dame shot 55 percent from the field, while Duke shot 52 percent.
“We did a great job offensively,” Brey said. “We’ve got to get up to 85 and 90 [points per game]. We have the ability to score like that.”
The Irish trailed by 15 seven minutes into the game, and were behind by double digits for much of the opening stanza.
“I’m really proud of our group, we took a big punch early,” Brey said.
A three pointer right before the halftime buzzer gave Duke a 50-45 lead, and they scored the first four points out of the break, but the Irish battled back, thanks to two three pointers from Ryan and a dunk from junior forward Nate Laszewski.
A three pointer from junior guard Dane Goodwin gave the Irish their first lead of the night, 63-62. Both teams continued to shoot at a high percentage and trade baskets down the stretch, although the Irish defense stepped up and made some key plays. Brey credited the zone defense with providing a defensive boost. “They are a drive at your throat group with their athletic ability,” Brey said. “It made them a little more apprehensive to drive it.”
“Our defense fuels our offense,” junior guard Prentiss Hubb said. “When we play hard on defense, it just makes everything easier on offense.”
A three pointer from Laszewski and a putback dunk from graduate student forward Juwan Durham gave Notre Dame a three point lead with just over five minutes to play, forcing Duke to take a timeout. The game continued to go back and forth in the final minutes. After Brey elected to take a timeout with two and half minutes left in the contest, a Hubb to Durham alley-oop dunk extended the Irish lead to four.
Ryan took a charge with just over a minute left, and after using most of the shot clock, Hubb drilled a deep three pointer to put the Irish up by five points and effectively seal the game. Brey described Hubb as an “assassin.”
“Nobody can close out [games] like him,” Brey said. “He’s a fearless guy, he’s a big time winner. … He’s unafraid of the bright lights.”
“Seeing everybody happy, and everybody playing to their best ability, I think that can keep us rolling and help us through the rest of the season,” Hubb said.
The Irish have now won five of their last seven games dating back to mid-January. They will try to build on their momentum when they return home to take on the Miami Hurricanes on Sunday. That game tips off at 6:00 p.m. and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.