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Irish edged out by NC State on the road

| Wednesday, January 25, 2023

On Tuesday night, Notre Dame men’s basketball traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina, looking to snap a three-game losing streak. For 40 minutes, the Irish battled, fighting back from several big deficits to keep within reach up until the final seconds. Ultimately, it was not enough, as the NC State Wolfpack surged down the stretch to earn an 85-82 victory. With the loss, Notre Dame drops to 9-12 on the season and 1-9 in ACC play.

The Irish offense came into the game executing at a high level, scoring 70-plus points in their previous four games. Instead, their recent struggles have stemmed primarily from the defensive end, and that did not change on Tuesday. A pair of early three-pointers from graduate student forward Nate Laszewski and graduate student guard Cormac Ryan built an early four-point Irish lead. But the Wolfpack answered with a 19-4 run that put them ahead by double-digits midway through the first half.

NC State’s starting backcourt features two of the ACC’s leading scorers, and they caused problems for Notre Dame all night. Jarkel Joiner came out of the gates on fire and never cooled down. He scored seven points in the opening seven minutes to spark the Wolfpack’s big run and finished the first half with 16. He would go on to score a game-high 28 points.

Terquavion Smith was a game-time decision after suffering an injury on Saturday during NC State’s loss against North Carolina. He received raucous applause from the crowd upon being announced in the Wolfpack’s starting lineup. Smith struggled to find his shot, finishing 0-7 from the floor in the first half. But he managed to impact the game by getting to the free throw line and setting up easy looks for teammates. Smith would find his touch in the second half and finish the game with 17 points and six assists.

Facing a sizable deficit just minutes into the game, the Irish wasted no time getting back into it. Notre Dame rattled off a quick 10-0 run. After graduate student guard Dane Goodwin and Ryan connected on consecutive three-pointers, the game was tied at 27-27 with more than six minutes remaining in the half. The Irish kept their foot on the gas, scoring with high efficiency and stymying NC State with a zone defense.

With Laszewski on the bench after picking up three early fouls, freshman forward Ven-Allen Lubin received extended playing time and took full advantage on both ends of the court. Lubin finished the game with 10 points, five rebounds and a pair of blocks. A fast-break dunk early in the second half showcased his impressive athleticism. Behind his strong play and nine points each from Ryan and graduate student guard Marcus Hammond, the Irish went into the break leading 42-39.

After struggling to finish late in the the first half, the Wolfpack could not miss coming out of halftime. NC State went on another huge run, this time 16-4, and took a nine-point advantage. Just as they did in the first half, though, Notre Dame quickly rallied. Ryan scored five unanswered points to cut the deficit to four. A Goodwin three-pointer shortly thereafter brought the Irish within two.

That set up several minutes of back-and-forth basketball, with both teams seemingly scoring at will. Ryan drilled his fifth three-pointer of the night on his fifth attempt, setting up a scenario that has become painfully familiar for Irish fans in recent weeks. Down by one, less than five minutes to play, a strong final stretch away from victory. Just as has been the case in so many of their narrow ACC defeats, the Irish were unable to close out the game. NC State’s Casey Morsell made a three and Smith hit a pair of free throws immediately after the Irish run. Just like that, the Wolfpack advantage was back up to six.

Notre Dame would have other chances, at one point missing a game-tying three-pointer with less than two minutes to play. But they were unable to fully overcome the deficit. The Wolfpack executed well down the stretch, making seven of their final eight free throws to pull out the win. Ryan led the Irish with 19 points, and freshman guard JJ Starling finished with 18 after a masterful second-half performance in which he could not be stopped from getting to the rim.

For Notre Dame, the story of the game was turnovers, surprising for a group that is one of the nation’s best at protecting the ball. The Irish gave the ball up 15 times while forcing just two Wolfpack turnovers. That led to 18 points off of turnovers for NC State and none for Notre Dame. That one-sided margin ended up 15 points larger than the final Irish deficit.

Additionally, the Irish struggled to defend the rim, allowing the Wolfpack to score 40 points in the paint. D.J. Burns Jr. used his strength and physicality to overpower smaller Irish defenders. He scored 14 points and seemed to convert an easy layup every time Notre Dame desperately needed a stop.

Cutting down on sloppy offensive play and finding a way to limit scoring opportunities for opposing big men are areas that the Irish will look to address in the coming days as they try to bounce back and return to the winning column. Up next, Notre Dame will be back at home on Saturday against Louisville, who is winless in ACC play. Tipoff is at noon and the game will be available on ESPN2.

Contact Matthew Crow at [email protected]

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