Irish survive Laszewski injury, defeat Wolfpack
Liam Coolican | Monday, February 7, 2022
Notre Dame swept their brief, two-game road trip with a win Saturday afternoon, defeating North Carolina State 69-57. The Irish (16-7, 9-3 ACC) moved into second place in the conference with the win.
Notre Dame has now won five conference road games, more than any other team in the ACC.
“We’re a confident group, especially on the road,” head coach Mike Brey said after the game. Notre Dame lost their first three road contests by a combined 34 points, but have since gone 6-1 away from home.
The Irish got off a strong start on both ends of the floor, leading by as many as 17 early in the first half. The Wolfpack didn’t score their first points until more than six minutes into the contest.
However, Notre Dame was dealt a blow early in the game when senior forward Nate Laszewski drew an offensive foul but suffered a knee injury in the process. Laszewski, who has started every game for the Irish this year, didn’t return.
Brey said after the game that the injury was a bruise and “nothing structural,” adding that he anticipated Laszewski being ready for Wednesday’s game against Louisville. Notre Dame, who typically plays with an already thin 7-man rotation, used just six players the rest of the way.
In Laszewski’s absence, graduate student forward Paul Atkinson, Jr., continued his hot stretch, scoring 15 points and adding 10 rebounds. The Irish had five players score in double figures.
A layup from Atkinson put Notre Dame up 21-4, their largest lead of the game, but the Wolfpack soon began to chip away, and the Irish lead was down to just 5 heading into halftime.
“Proud of our group,” Brey said. “You get off to such a great start. You know you’re not going to escape without a run from NC State and they made a great one. And we really recovered.”
North Carolina State took their first lead of the game with 15 minutes to play, but the Irish responded, going on a 7-0 run thanks to a three from senior guard Trey Wertz and back-to-back fast-break buckets from freshman guard Blake Wesley. Notre Dame didn’t trail again the rest of the way.
“We played fast early,” Brey said. “We were getting down the floor quickly, getting stops and in the second half, we talked about how we’re going to have to grind, slow it down a little bit, play some zone and make it a little bit of a slower game. I thought we adjusted it to that well.”
Notre Dame returns home Wednesday for a matchup with Louisville and will look to continue to strengthen their NCAA tournament resume. The Irish have eight regular-season games remaining, five at home and three away, with none against ranked teams. “We’ve got a chance,” Brey said. “Lot of work to do, but we’ve done a lot of work already. We’ve put a lot of money in the bank. Today helped.”