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Four key moments from Notre Dame’s dominant win over Michigan State

Notre Dame dominated No. 20 Michigan State from start to finish Wednesday night at Purcell Pavillion, earning a signature win in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. Here are four key moments from the victory: 

Ryan leads first half three point barrage 

The Irish offense was clicking on all cylinders early, led by graduate student guard Cormac Ryan. He lit up the Spartans en route to 20 first half points on 7-8 shooting, including 5-5 from beyond the arc. With just over five minutes left in the opening frame, he went on a personal 8-0 run. 

He scored five points in just 11 seconds, drilling a three before scoring in the paint after the Spartans committed an offensive foul. After the Irish defense got another stop, he knocked down yet another triple to extend the Irish lead to 39-16, sending Purcell Pavilion into a frenzy. 

Less than a week after the Irish went 2-17 from beyond the arc in a loss to St. Bonaventure, they knocked down 62% of their attempts from deep in the first half Wednesday, while holding the Spartans to just 29%. 

Irish defense puts clamps on Spartans early

Michigan State came into the game averaging nearly 74 points per contest against a slew of ranked teams, but Notre Dame’s defense wasn’t deterred on Wednesday night. Right from the opening tip, the Irish defense swarmed the Spartans, forcing bad shots and turnovers all night. 

The Spartans converted on just one of their first nine attempts from the field, and their 24 first half points marked a season low. Graduate student forward Nate Laszewski was particularly impressive defensively for the Irish, consistently shutting down the Spartan’s big men. The first few minutes was merely a precursor of what was to come as Mike Brey’s defense made life miserable for Tom Izzo’s squad all night. 

10-0 opening run sparks offense 

The dominant defense in the opening minutes allowed Notre Dame’s offense to find its groove as well. Despite starting relatively slowly —the Irish led just 5-2 at the first media timeout — the offense eventually hit its stride, scoring 10 straight points after Michigan State’s opening bucket. 

Laszewski scored four, freshman guard JJ Starling added three and Ryan capped off the run with his first three pointer of the night. The Irish built a 10-2 lead over the first six-plus minutes, which ultimately proved to be insurmountable for the Spartans. The Irish led by double digits for the final thirty minutes of the contest. 

Laszewski dunk puts game away 

It’s difficult to pin down one moment in which this contest was definitively over, as Notre Dame led by 18 points at halftime and held the Spartans at arm’s length throughout the second half. The large contingent of Michigan State fans who had made the journey from East Lansing tried their best to get their team back into the contest, but each time the Spartans made a run, the Irish would respond in kind. 

On one such occasion midway through the period, as the Spartans made a push, Laszewski knocked down a three while falling to the ground, and on the next possession, found himself open on a cut to the basket and threw down a vicious slam. The dunk came in the midst of a 9-0 run for the Irish which would put them up by 23 and take any remaining wind out of the Spartans’ sails. Laszewski scored just nine points in the contest, after coming in averaging more than 18, but his impact for the Irish was far greater than his numbers indicated.

Contact Liam Coolican at lcoolica@nd.edu

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Women’s soccer prepares to host South Bend regional

Friday afternoon, a weekend of soccer will kick off at Alumni Stadium to decide who will be among the final eight teams in the NCAA tournament.

Notre Dame will host both their own game with Santa Clara, as well as an earlier contest between Michigan State and TCU to determine who will play the winner of the Irish/Broncos matchup.

Here’s everything you need to know about the three teams Notre Dame will play or might play this weekend in South Bend.

Santa Clara is the Irish’s Round of 32 opponent, and they present an immediate tough task for a Notre Dame squad that glided by Omaha in the Round of 64 without much difficulty. The Broncos have NCAA Tournament experience that few others in the nation can boast. Last year’s squad made the College Cup, and in 2020 they took home the national title. Neither of those Broncos teams were highly seeded, and both took down No. 1 seeds in their tournament runs. 

Izzy D’Aquila leads the charge for Santa Clara. The nation’s top goalscorer, D’Aquila outjumped three defenders and the Cal goaltender to deliver the winning header in the first round of the tournament. She is one of the most dangerous players on the field if she’s able to get the ball at her feet. But for that to happen, Santa Clara needs big games from wingbacks Alyssa Bourgeois and Colby Barnett. That pairing leads the team in just about every chance creation stat possible. They need to break through a stout Notre Dame defense Friday night.

Michigan State, TCU round out quartet

Headlining the earlier game is the No. 4 seed Michigan State. The Spartans have enjoyed a dream season in Jeff Hosler’s second year as head coach. The Spartans won the Big Ten regular season title, continuing a stunning curve of improvement from a 2020 team that finished 1-10-1 and ended the season on a 10-game losing streak. Goalkeeper Lauren Kozal anchors the Michigan State backline and has enjoyed a career year in her final season that has placed her among the nation’s best goalies. Senior forward Lauren DeBeau leads the charge on offense for the Spartans, with a team-high 11 goals as well as four assists.

Looking to end Michigan State’s stellar run is TCU, whose up-and-down results throughout the season make them likely the biggest wild card of the regional. Early on in the season, the Horned Frogs notched perhaps the biggest statement win of the year in college soccer, dismantling then-No. 16 Santa Clara 7-0 in Fort Worth. But from that point on, TCU went just 1-1-2 against ranked teams. That included a 3-0 defeat at the hands of USC. The Horned Frogs have offensive weapons, most notably graduate student forward Messiah Bright, who seems destined for the NWSL once her collegiate career ends. But will they show up against a disciplined Michigan State team that has had a week of rest from a grueling extra-time win in round one?

The South Bend regional kicks off Friday at 2 p.m. at Alumni Stadium when Michigan State takes on TCU. Notre Dame will play the second match of the afternoon, taking on Santa Clara at 6 p.m. Both matches will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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Tunney: Top five games of CFB Week 9

Another week of college football brings another slate of games, each with unique stories, traditions and players. In the words of famous sportscaster Brad Nessler, “you can go to every stadium in the country, and never see the same thing twice.”

5. Michigan State @  No. 4 Michigan, 7:30 p.m., ABC, (Michigan -22.5)

This iconic battle is waged for the 115th time this Saturday, as two teams with divergent seasons clash in a rivalry matchup. Michigan is 7-0 and has looked the part of a team willing to challenge Ohio State again for Big Ten supremacy. The Wolverine offensive attack possesses a talented group of wide receivers and strong backfield led by running back Blake Corum. Corum has received some Heisman trophy hype, the prognosticators currently project him with the fourth-best odds to win the award. 

After a good deal of preseason fanfare, Michigan State has had a rocky season, going 3-4. Their offense hasn’t gotten over the loss of NFL running back Kenneth Walker III, although the team still has playmakers. Wide Receiver Jaylen Reed had a game-winning catch against Wisconsin last week. Defensive end Jacoby Windmon has won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week twice. The Wolverines may be the better team talent-wise, but to achieve their goals they’ll have to get past a team that has been their kryptonite. Jim Harbaugh is 0-2 against Spartan head coach Mel Tucker, and the Wolverines are 4-10 in the last 14 matchups. 

4. Notre Dame @ No. 16 Syracuse, Noon, ABC, (Syracuse -2.5)

After an up and down month, the Irish travel east to central New York to play a surprisingly good Syracuse team. The Irish had the benefit of a get-right game last weekend, beating an inferior UNLV squad 44-21. Throughout the year, tight end Michael Mayer has looked like the real deal; he’s the leading receiver on an Irish team that needs more playmakers to emerge. Running back Audric Estime has run well at times but has struggled with ball security, fumbling three times in his past four games. If the Irish want to upset Syracuse, they will need to take care of the ball. Syracuse is 6-1, coming off of a tight loss to fifth-ranked Clemson. Running back Sean Tucker has been the best player for the Orange this year, which makes head coach Dino Babers’ decision to largely exclude him from the game plan against Clemson all the more confusing. Tucker only carried the ball five times for 54 yards. Quarterback Garrett Shrader has had a good year for the Orange, and if they want to stay in contention for a New Year’s Six Bowl Game, they will need this win. 

3. No. 9 Oklahoma State @ No. 22 Kansas State, 3:30 p.m., FOX, (Kansas State -1)

The Big 12 plays host to another important battle, a dogfight that could potentially decide the second spot in the Big 12 Championship Game. Both teams have lost to TCU, who has taken charge as the best team in the Big 12 thus far. Oklahoma State responded from their double overtime loss to TCU two weeks ago (their only loss of the season) with a huge win over Texas. Quarterback Spencer Sanders is dealing with undisclosed injuries, but he fought through to give the Cowboys an important win. Sanders threw for 391 yards and 2 touchdowns last week.

Kansas State has lost two games, to TCU and a ranked Tulane team, and have shown flashes of being a conference contender. The Wildcats were up 28-10 on TCU at one point before collapsing and allowing a comeback. Kansas State also barely avoided an upset against Iowa State. Quarterback Adrian Martinez also was injured against TCU, and although backup Will Howard filled in admirably, the starter’s health is a paramount concern. Both teams need the game to stay in the battle for the Big 12 Championship. 

2.  No. 19 Kentucky @ No. 3 Tennessee, 7:00 p.m., ESPN, (Tennessee -12.5)

This showdown between two ranked SEC teams has potential to be a classic. Quarterbacks Hendon Hooker and Will Levis are two of the most talented in the country for their respective teams, and their showdown on Saturday night is going to be fun. Hooker has been the man behind the reins of an insanely talented offensive attack, and his connection with wide receiver Jalin Hyatt might end up leading the Volunteers to the SEC Championship and beyond. The Volunteers are playing their first conference game since their biggest win in years, a 52-49 win over Alabama. Fans stormed the field, uprooting the goal posts and transporting them out of the stadium into the nearby river. Last weekend, the Volunteers put up 65 points on a hapless UT Martin squad. Kentucky is coming off of their bye week, which allowed their star quarterback to get healthy. Two weeks ago, they earned a key win against a ranked Mississippi State, stopping a losing streak of two games. Kentucky’s philosophy is built on running the football and playing strong defense. If they can somehow get defensive stops this Kentucky team could turn Tennessee’s championship dreams into a nightmare.

1. No. 2 Ohio State @ No. 13 Penn State, Noon, FOX, (Ohio State -15.5)

Ohio State is undefeated and has a claim as the best team in the country. Quarterback CJ Stroud has been scary good, with 28 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions. Ohio State has made their living off of having the best wide receiver rooms in the country over the past few seasons and this year is no different. Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Julian Fleming have more than stepped up in the absence of the crown jewel, Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Head coach Ryan Day is hopeful that Smith-Njigba can return for his first game since his injury against Notre Dame. 

Last week, the Buckeyes obliterated an Iowa defense that some called the best in the Big Ten, overcoming a flat start to put up 54 points. Penn State is coming off of a big win against Minnesota that keeps them in the Big Ten Championship race (for the time being). That contention is dependent on a win this weekend. If Penn State loses on Saturday, the Nittany Lions and head coach James Franklin will be effectively out of the running. Franklin’s team has talent, and have played the Buckeyes close in recent years. 

Contact Joseph Tunney at jtunney@nd.edu.

The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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Irish look to start strong in conference play

Notre Dame men’s soccer will begin conference play this weekend with a top-25 matchup against No. 24 Syracuse this Saturday. The No. 22 Irish will enter the contest at 1-1-1 following a closely contested 1-1 draw against DePaul at Alumni Stadium this week.

The Orange have got off to a blistering start with 3 wins in their first four contests and outscoring opponents 9-1 in those four games. Notre Dame’s defense will have its hands full with sophomore forward Nathan Opoku and senior forward Levonte Johnson, who was on the 2022 MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List. The Hermann Trophy is given to the top men’s and women’s college soccer player each year. In particular, Opoku has had a blistering start to the season, leading the team with two goals and two assists in his first four games.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame has underperformed to start this season. Following their College Cup appearance last year, they’re winless in their first two home games, both against unranked, non-conference opposition. Their only win came away from home, where they nearly squandered a 3-0 lead against Michigan State but held on to win 3-2.

On Tuesday night, they needed a late equalizer at home against DePaul to avoid another home loss. Head coach Chad Riley spoke on how they can take the resilience they showed on Tuesday night into their matchup with Syracuse.

“I think the biggest thing tonight was the mentality,” said Riley. “The tide was against us, but the guys kept fighting back and eventually got the tying goal and had chances to win it. So, we’re taking positives from the mentality-side of that.”

This will be the first meeting between the two schools since 2020 when Notre Dame beat Syracuse 1-0 at Alumni Stadium. The Irish lead the all-time series 15-3-2.