Following their first loss of the season at the hands of St. Bonaventure, Notre Dame men’s basketball responded by defeating No. 20 Michigan State by nearly 20 points. After narrowly falling against Syracuse on Saturday, 62-61, the Irish will hope to bounce back in a similar way as they host Boston University on Wednesday night.
For most of Saturday’s game, it appeared that Notre Dame (6-2, 0-1 ACC) would enter this week on a two-game winning streak. The Irish offense picked up where it left off after the win against Michigan State and posted one of its best halves of shooting all season in the first period. Graduate student guards Dane Goodwin and Cormac Ryan each made three three-pointers in the first half alone. However, Notre Dame’s inability to stop Syracuse in the paint allowed the Orange to weather the Irish’s perimeter shooting storm and stay in the game. When the Irish offense was slowed to a halt by Syracuse’s second-half defensive adjustments, the Orange were able to escape with a one-point victory.
Moving forward, interior defense will likely be a point of emphasis for Notre Dame, especially against a team like Boston University (5-4, 2-2 Patriot) who does not play with much size, but gets strong rebounding production from its guards. The Terriers began the season 4-1 but followed their strong start with three consecutive losses. After bouncing back in a comprehensive road victory against Merrimack on Friday, they will look to carry momentum into South Bend. Their strength lies on the defensive end, where they have allowed on average just 65 points per game this season. Notre Dame, who has executed well on offense, will need a performance similar to that of the first half against Syracuse rather than the second, which saw them struggle to find the hoop.
Offensively, the Terriers scored over 90 points in back-to-back blowout victories early in the season but have since come back down to earth. They have not scored more than 70 points in any of their last five games. Breaking 70 points, which Notre Dame has done on a relatively consistent basis this season, will likely be enough to propel them to a victory. The Terriers have been one of the least efficient three-point shooting teams in the nation at just 31%, which will allow the Irish to put extra attention on protecting the paint.
Notre Dame entered the game against Syracuse with their roster finally at full strength after graduate student guard Marcus Hammond’s return from injury. Hammond finished the game with six points and three assists and converted a three-point play in the game’s final minute that would have been the game-winner if not for Syracuse’s score on the ensuing possession. After participating fully in practice since that game, he will likely be more comfortable and assertive offensively on Wednesday. Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey spoke after the Syracuse game about how Hammond will benefit from additional practice time, as well as his potential to boost a thin Irish rotation by contributing off the bench along with freshman forward Ven-Allen Lubin.
“For me, it was kind of new territory because, ‘Wow, I have two subs always,’” Brey said. “He and Ven off the bench are fabulous. We have a chance to get him in shape now with some practice reps.”
The emergence of Lubin over the last several games has been a crucial development for the Irish. The freshman has scored in double figures in three of their last four games and brings strong post play to a Notre Dame offense that does most of its work on the perimeter. Against an undersized Boston University team, the Irish will look to Lubin and senior forward Nate Laszewski to carry a heavy load offensively. Laszewski, Notre Dame’s leading scorer, was quiet against Syracuse, scoring just two points on 1-6 shooting. However, he still managed to impact the game in other ways and will look to get back on track offensively while providing the same effort and intensity that he had on Saturday.
“It was a rough game,” Brey said about Laszewski. “I felt for him because he just couldn’t find it, yet the guy always defends and he’s rebounding and he’s putting his chest on dudes and trying to help us win.”
Notre Dame shot 8-18 on three-pointers in the first half against Syracuse and just 3-15 in the second, which highlighted a significant difference in shot quality. In the game’s early stages, the Irish frequently got the ball into the paint and found kick-out opportunities for open shooters. In the second half, Syracuse made it difficult for Notre Dame to utilize the high post, and the Irish often passed the ball around the perimeter until having to force a contested shot in the final seconds of the shot clock.
Finding ways for players like Laszewski, Lubin and Goodwin to get post touches will open things up for Notre Dame’s elite perimeter shooters and provide chances to get to the free throw line. It will be difficult for the Irish to win games while attempting just five free throws like they did against Syracuse, and they will look to be more aggressive on Wednesday.
Notre Dame has already shown the ability to respond to a tough loss and will have the opportunity to do so again on Wednesday.
The Irish will host Boston University at Purcell Pavilion at 7:00 p.m. EST on ACCNX.
Contact Matthew Crow at email@example.com.