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Men’s Basketball

Untimely cold stretch buries Irish in Wake Forest loss

| Monday, February 27, 2023

Notre Dame’s men’s basketball would like to snap its lengthy losing skid before Mike Brey moves on. However, the team is running out of time to get it done. On Saturday, the streak reached seven games in a 66-58 road loss to Wake Forest. The Irish were competitive for much of the contest, but faded away late. With one road game remaining, Notre Dame now carries an 0-11 record away from home.

Well before tip-off, the Irish were up against it. Two key pieces of Brey’s traditional seven-man rotations, freshman guard J.J. Starling (knee) and graduate guard Marcus Hammond (toe), were unable to play. Early on, graduate guard Trey Wertz covered for them, scoring five points in just over three minutes. He factored into a sensational offensive start for the Irish, who opened on a 10-for-15 run from the field. On the other hand, Wake Forest opened poorly with a 7-for-19 clip. Having made four consecutive three-pointers, Notre Dame held a 25-18 lead just past the first half’s midway point.

It was only a matter of time before the ACC’s top three-point-shooting team found its rhythm. In a flash, Wake Forest made a pair of triples to cut the deficit to one. Then, with 7:10 remaining, graduate guard Cormac Ryan got caught on the wrong end of a Demon Deacon alley-oop. As sophomore forward Matthew Marsh dunked the ball, Ryan committed a foul, allowing Marsh to even the score at the free throw line. Moments later, Marsh gave Wake the lead, and graduate guard Tyree Appleby extended it to five with his second of five made threes. Ryan snapped the 8-0 run with a three-ball, but the Irish couldn’t regain the lead. At halftime, they trailed 39-36 despite a 12-for-25 shooting performance.

Freshman forward opened ND’s second half with a thunderous dunk and a smooth jumper. However, the offensive action that followed was anything but smooth. Notre Dame and Wake Forest went a whopping four minutes and 23 seconds without scoring before the Demon Deacons emerged with the hot hand. All in all, the Irish made one of 12 shots leading up to the second half’s 10 minute mark, allowing Wake Forest to turn a one-possession game into a comfortable lead. With Wake ahead 51-42, the Tyree Appleby takeover took effect. He scored eight points in under two minutes, out-dueling a quick five-point outburst from Lubin. 

While the Irish remained largely futile from the field, Wake Forest’s lead grew to 12. As the clock ticked down below two minutes, Notre Dame had made just two field goals in the previous six minutes. Ryan trimmed the deficit to nine with a layup, but a pair of Wertz turnovers effectively ended the game with 49 seconds remaining. Though seven points were exchanged in the final 13 seconds, Wake Forest walked away with an eight-point victory. 

In the big picture, the Irish succumbed to the same issue which plagued them in the 81-64 loss to Wake on Feb. 4. In that game, Notre Dame made four threes to Wake Forest’s 14. On Saturday, Notre Dame hit just five threes to oppose Wake Forest’s 12. In fact, the Irish did not make a single three-pointer in the second half, helping the Demon Deacons pull away. As per usual, Notre Dame also got wrecked on the offensive glass. Wake earned a 15-5 advantage in that category.

The loss saw Ven-Allen Lubin set a new career highs of 19 points and 32 minutes played. He also added eight rebounds and three blocks — both his best totals in ACC play. As the season has progressed, Lubin has rewarded Mike Brey for his trust. In each of the last six games in which Lubin has played 20-plus minutes, he has scored 10 or more points. Despite inefficient efforts, Wertz and Ryan joined him in double-figures Saturday night, each scoring 12.  

On the Wake Forest side, Tyree Appleby stole the show, scoring 21 points and dishing out six assists. An under-the-radar ACC Player of the Year candidate, Appleby now averages 18.5 points and 6.3 assists per game on the season. In the paint, freshman forward Bobi Klintman churned out a double-double, accumulating ten points and 12 rebounds. Playing without redshirt junior guard Damari Monsanto, who made eight threes in Wake Forest’s previous defeat of the Irish, six different Demon Deacons hit one from outside.

As the calendar turns to March, Notre Dame now owns a 10-19 overall record and a 2-16 conference mark. Senior night now looms for the Irish, who will host Pittsburgh on Wednesday. In a rather stunning turn of events, the Panthers (21-8, 14-4) currently hold the outright top position in the ACC. Wednesday night’s game will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. EST on ESPNU and the Notre Dame Radio Network.

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About Tyler Reidy

Tyler is a sophomore who serves as an Associate Sports Editor at The Observer. Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, and Keough Hall, he enjoys road trips, all things collegiate athletics and Kansas City barbecue. Reach out here or @TylerJReidy on Twitter!

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