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Lifeless Irish fall to 1-8 in ACC with 84-72 loss to Eagles

| Monday, January 23, 2023

It was a tough week for the Notre Dame Men’s Basketball team leading up to Saturday’s home game at Purcell against the Boston College Eagles. After an overtime win against the struggling Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Notre Dame could not contain the offense of the 7-13 Florida State Seminoles. Two days later, head coach Mike Brey announced that he will retire at the end of the year after 23 seasons with the team. Despite stellar free throw shooting, the second-fewest turnovers per game in college basketball, and the fourth lowest fouls per game, the Irish have been unable to turn these stats into wins. They started the season 5-0 and went 4-10 overall (1-7 in league play) heading into the Boston College clash. 

And it didn’t get better as they dropped another one against the Eagles, 84-72. When these teams played on January 3rd in Chestnut Hill, the Irish played well through the first 36 minutes, until BC went on a 15-2 run to finish the game. The final score was 70-63. 

This game was a real opportunity for Notre Dame to show what they were made of. Their chances of making the tournament are pretty much zero (technically 0.2% according to TeamRankings.com). Brey and many of the starters are leaving. During warm-ups and the intro, the team’s body language looked defeated. The Eagles’ Quinten Post scored the first six points of the game with two three pointers for the Eagles, and it was silent early in Purcell. 

The Irish kept in it though, and they overtook the Eagles halfway through the first quarter when graduate student Marcus Hammond made a three pointer. Following a trio of three-pointers from fellow grad student Nate Laszewski and a jumper from Dane Goodwin, the Irish had a nine point lead, their largest lead of the game. 

Then the momentum changed and the Irish looked like a completely different team. This seems to be a common theme for Notre Dame this year; when they are feeling it, this team plays well and could compete with anyone. However, they seem to be unable to compartmentalize mistakes. A turnover turns into a run for the other team. A missed free throw causes a scoring drought for the Irish. At key times, the Irish are unable to get out of its own way. The teams went into the locker room at half time with Boston College leading 36-35.

Notre Dame came back out for the second half unable to do anything on offense for five and half minutes until Cormac Ryan went one for two from the line but by then BC had built a thirteen point lead. 

A few minutes later, Laszewski and Goodwin scored eight points in 34 seconds to cut down the Eagles lead just to four with twelve minutes to go. The Eagles were already in serious foul trouble by this point, allowing the Irish to play aggressively. The score remained within a six-point margin until there were two minutes remaining. Laszewski had a career high 29 points. 

Boston College continued to foul the rest of the game ending with 20 total team fouls (sophomore Jaeden Zachery fouled out), but the Irish couldn’t capitalize and went 65% from the free throw line. Boston College shot 88% from the charity stripe. Notre Dame never led down the stretch, as a layup from freshman guard JJ Starling with eight minutes remaining gave Notre Dame their final lead for the night. Notre Dame’s final points came off a free throw by Ryan with two and a half minutes to go. 

This week clearly weighed on the team as they played an uncharacteristically sloppy game with twelve turnovers (above their nine per game average) and missed free throws. After the game, Ryan was clearly disappointed with their performance but promised this team would keep working.

“I think that it’s a tough thing for any human being to do, to kind of persevere through adversity especially when you had expectations that might not have gone the way you wanted to. This is a group that’s very resilient, very high character, very talented and you know we still have a lot of belief in this group… We have no plan on going out without swinging and that’s a fact,” Ryan said in the post-game press conference.  

Brey then spoke about the team’s scoring droughts at times when Boston College had no trouble making baskets (BC was 58% on three pointers). He attributed a lot of their play right now to bad luck (with good shots just not falling for them) and mental blocks. 

“It’s a mental hurdle, I really think and you see it in sports. It’s the worst nightmare for a coach of a group [who is] playing pretty [well],” Brey said. 

He also spoke more about what comes next for the program after his retirement. He said he had spoken with Notre Dame’s three recruits for next season and their families and told them to stick with this program. 

“My number one theme with the parents was just don’t knee-jerk. Finish your high school season, let us get in the process of hiring a new coach and you gotta meet with the new guy. I think they’ll do that.”

The Irish fall to 1-8 in league play and 9-11 overall. The team’s next game is away at North Carolina State on Tuesday.

Contact Annika Herko at [email protected]

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