After tough road trip, Irish return home to face NC State
Liam Coolican | Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Before the Notre Dame basketball team began its three-game road trip just over 10 days ago, they sat at 9-10, and there was talk about whether they could make a late run and clinch an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. Now, they head home, attempting to right the ship after losing three straight games.
“We’ve tried [to get over the hump] all year,” head coach Mike Brey said after the team’s most recent loss to Boston College. “We’ve tried different starting lineups, we try a little bit of everything and I don’t think I’ve been able to help them very well, quite frankly. I blame myself for not being able to get us into that .500 zone.”
Due to a COVID-related postponement and the lengthy road trip, the Irish (9-13, 6-10 ACC) haven’t played a home game since a Valentine’s Day win over Miami.
“It’s been so long since we played at home,” Brey said. “I thought we looked mentally tired even when we got on the plane yesterday, and you know what? We are.”
Brey compared the recent losing streak to the beginning of the year, where the Irish started 0-5 in conference play before winning four of their next five games.
“These are great kids, they’re very proud kids,” Brey said. “They were 0-5, and they came off the mat and showed some life. … I need that same recipe.”
The Irish will close the regular season with a two-game home-stand, first on Wednesday night against North Carolina State and then a Saturday afternoon contest with league-leading Florida State. For the first time this year, limited student attendance will be permitted.
“We have been grinding, we’ve been available for every game, we’ve taken our punches and I think it’s up to me to try and get us refreshed by Monday to play some home games,” Brey said. “I think just playing at home will refresh us.”
The Wolfpack (12-9, 8-8 ACC) come to South Bend as one of the hotter teams in the conference, having won their previous four games. Notre Dame leads the all-time series between the two schools 8-7, but NC State has taken the last three contests, including a 73-68 win last year.
If the Irish are going to have a chance to win, they will certainly need to improve their defense. They allowed 94 points in the loss to Boston College.
“Either we’re going to do a little better against NC State on Wednesday, or somebody else is going to put 90 on the board,” Brey said. “We better score a 100 to escape.”
After they close out the regular season, the Irish will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina, for the ACC Tournament which begins March 10. The Irish, 11th in the conference as of Tuesday, are unlikely to secure a first round bye. In order to make the NCAA tournament, they would likely have to win the ACC tournament by winning five games in a row. However, the National Invitation Tournament announced that they will be holding their tournament in Texas this year and will not require teams to have a winning record, although the event will be pared down to 16 teams from their usual 32. Even so, if the Irish can win a few more games before the end of the season, they will have the chance to make the postseason.
Wednesday’s game kicks off at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion and will be televised on the ACC Network.