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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

Laszewski leads Irish past Wolfpack to stay unbeaten at home

Notre Dame won their third consecutive game and stayed undefeated at home Wednesday night with a hard-fought 73-65 victory over North Carolina State. The Irish (13-6, 6-2 ACC) have now won eight of their last nine contests and moved to third in the ACC with the win. 

Despite the 9 p.m. tip-off on a weeknight, students turned out in force to support the Irish. A day after he was seen tossing shirts to students in the dining halls, head coach Mike Brey could be seen gesturing towards the student section to cheer on the team. He continued to encourage the students throughout and applauded when he heard back.

“They have been awesome,” Brey said. “There’s no question that got us over the hump. When our building’s alive, it helps us defensively.”

However, both sides got off to a slow start on the offensive end. Coming off a road win over Louisville in which they shot more than 60% from the field and 65% from beyond the arc, the Irish offense came crashing back to earth. In the first half against the Wolfpack (10-11, 3-7 ACC), they shot under 38% from the field. The Wolfpack weren’t much better though. And, after a back and forth half, the game was tied at 30 heading into the locker room. 

North Carolina State scored the first five points of the second half, but after a timeout, the Irish, and senior forward Nate Laszewski, found their groove offensively. Laszewski went on an 8-0 run, hitting back-to-back three-pointers before a two-handed slam, sending the crowd into a frenzy. 

“After we went down five, in the huddle we talked about bringing more energy. So, we played with a little bit more pace and had more energy, and I think it turned it around for us,” Laszewski said. 

Following a North Carolina State timeout, the Irish extended that run to 15-0, pushing their lead to double digits. Laszewski paced the Irish with 18 points and 10 rebounds in the contest. “He’s got a great presence about him,” Brey said. 

In addition to being one of the most difficult players to guard on the offensive end, Laszewski is also one of Notre Dame’s best defenders. Brey says he seamlessly guards multiple positions. “He is fabulous defensively, helping, talking, switching,” Brey said. “It’s a clinic how unselfish he is.”

North Carolina State continued to battle and cut the deficit to three with just over 10 minutes to play, but senior guard Dane Goodwin answered with another three-pointer. Freshman guard Blake Wesley got a steal and a fast-break bucket. And then, senior guard Cormac Ryan hit two free throws to push the lead back to 10. The Irish were able to keep the Wolfpack at arm's length for the rest of the contest. For the rest of the game, they never led by less than five points. 

Goodwin finished with 17 points and 8 rebounds. Wesley added 15 points despite a poor shooting night. This extended his Notre Dame true freshman record of consecutive games scored in double figures to 16 games.

“He’s a winner,” Brey said of Wesley. “We trust him to have the ball in his hands.” 

Senior guard Prentiss Hubb added 11 points and 5 assists while playing all 40 minutes for the Irish. “I thought Prentiss was just fabulous,” Brey said. “I didn’t feel I could take him out of the game.”

The Wolfpack were led by 21 points from Dereon Seabron, who is third in the ACC in scoring this year. 

The Irish continue their home stand Saturday night against Virginia, before a much-anticipated showdown Monday with Duke. The Irish haven’t beaten the Cavaliers (12-8, 6-4 ACC) since the 2017 ACC tournament semifinals. Hubb, Goodwin, and Laszewski, the longest-tenured members of the Irish, are 0-5 against Virginia. However, this senior class hadn’t beaten Louisville or North Carolina State prior to Notre Dame’s wins this week. So, they could be in position to break another such streak Saturday. 

“Those three seniors who have been through it all together were and have been men for us during this stretch,” Brey said. 

The Cavaliers, as they always have under head coach Tony Bennett, play at one of the slowest paces in college basketball. They lead the ACC in scoring defense, allowing under 60 points per game. But they also score the second-least points per game, with 62.6. Virginia is also an experienced group–their three leading scorers are all upperclassmen. 

The game tips off at 6 p.m. Saturday night at Purcell Pavilion and will broadcast on the ACC Network.