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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The Observer

Irish look to remain atop ACC vs. Eagles

Head coach Mike Brey’s “road dogs” did it again over the weekend. With a comfortable 76-61 win at Clemson, the Irish grabbed a league-leading seventh ACC road win to keep pace with Duke atop the ACC standings. 

Notre Dame hasn’t been bad at home either. The Irish are 11-1 at Purcell Pavilion this season (with the lone blemish coming against the Blue Devils), where they will host Boston College on Wednesday. 

Two and a half months ago, no one was talking about the Irish challenging for the program’s first ACC regular-season title. Notre Dame’s first conference game of the season came in Chestnut Hill, where the Eagles, picked to finish bottom of the conference in preseason, dominated Notre Dame en route to a 73-57 victory. 

Both teams’ fortunes have diverged since. Notre Dame (18-7, 11-3 ACC) rebounded from the loss at Conte Forum to upset then-No. 10 Kentucky in South Bend. Since Dec. 20, the Irish have won 14 of their last 16 games, including wins in eight of their last nine and four consecutive victories. 

The Eagles (9-14, 4-9 ACC), meanwhile, have lost three straight and five of their last six games. They currently sit 12th in the ACC. 

Brey said he is trying to downplay the theme of revenge ahead of the rematch against BC. 

“First of all, give them credit,” the coach said of the Eagles. “I thought they played really hard and well and beat us up, but we didn’t have much of an identity. Yesterday I said, ‘How about the identity we’ve created and developed?’ That’s the one thing that’s really kind of cool.”

Not that any of the Irish have forgotten about what happened on Dec. 3.

“They remember the ugliest night of the season,” Brey said. “We all do. That was a long flight.” 

Three-time ACC freshman of the week Blake Wesley rebounded from some difficult shooting performances of late with a blazing start against the Tigers. The guard from South Bend scored 18 points in the first 10 minutes Saturday, starting 6 of 6 from the field and 4 of 4 from three-point range. Brey said he and his staff have coached Wesley “pretty hard” this season. 

“Shot selection and taking care of the ball are important, and if we have to get you out [of the game] to talk about it, we’ll do it,” Brey said. “He has not sulked. He has not checked out. There are times where he’s been out and then all of a sudden he’s back in the last ten minutes making plays.” 

When Wesley cooled off after halftime, senior guard Dane Goodwin scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half, including a personal 7-0 run. Goodwin leads the Irish with 14.8 ppg and has scored in double figures in 24 of 25 games this season. 

The Irish have also benefited from an uptick in production from Cormac Ryan. The senior guard has started the last two games in place of senior forward Nate Laszewski, who came back after missing the Louisville win with a leg contusion and played just 16 minutes Saturday.

Ryan finished with 13 points vs. the Tigers and went 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.

“I think keeping the aggressive mindset is key,” he said. “I like to always be ready.” 

Boston College has a chance to win its third consecutive game vs. Notre Dame for the first time in 25 years. Eagles’ senior center James Karnik led all players with 17 points and 13 rebounds last time out against the Irish and is coming off a 21-point performance in a 72-61 loss vs. Duke Saturday. 

Tip-off Wednesday is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will air on ESPNU.