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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
The Observer

Irish drop third straight, fall to 0-2 in ACC play

Notre Dame dropped their third consecutive game and fell to 0-2 in ACC play Wednesday night in Tallahassee. Florida State played much better than their 3-10 record coming into the contest would indicate, but Notre Dame squandered numerous chances throughout the game as the Seminoles survived with a 73-72 victory.

“I feel for us because we really gave ourselves a chance to win,” head coach Mike Brey said after the game. 

Despite trailing most of the second half, Notre Dame had an opportunity to take the lead with less than five seconds to play. However, an errant pass from graduate student guard Trey Wertz sealed the defeat. 

“We couldn’t finish it,” Brey said. “I thought we were actually a little better than we were the two previous games. Maybe we’ve got a little something to build on.” 

Most recently, Notre Dame suffered consecutive 15-point defeats to Georgia and Marquette, after falling to Syracuse by a point to open ACC play. Their only win in the past five games came against Boston University. They're 7-5 overall after starting the season 6-1.

Notre Dame shot the lights out at times during the opening twenty minutes Wednesday — at one point, the Irish scored on 10 consecutive possessions. Yet at others, they simply could not find the bottom of the basket, going scoreless for several minutes at a time. 

Florida State jumped out to a 10-3 lead to open the contest, yet Notre Dame went on an 11-0 run spanning less than two minutes to take a 21-14 advantage. Eventually, the Irish took a double-digit lead midway through the half, but Florida State battled back, retaking the lead after a stretch of abysmal shooting from Notre Dame. The Irish entered the locker room clinging to a one-point advantage. 

Freshman forward Ven-Allen Lubin was a force on the offensive glass for Notre Dame in the first half. He grabbed six rebounds, including four on the offensive end, leading to several second-chance opportunities, but he was quiet in the second half. 

It was another freshman who took over down the stretch for the Irish. JJ Starling continued his hot stretch by scoring a game-high 20 points, including several key shots in the last few minutes which kept Notre Dame in the game. He scored the last six points of the contest, but it wasn’t quite enough. 

“He just keeps getting better,” Brey said of Starling’s recent string of performances. “He’s got a great poise about him.”

The Seminoles built a slight lead early in the second half. They never ran away with the game, never leading by more than eight, but they kept Notre Dame at arm’s length. Every time the Irish seemed poised to retake the lead, Florida State would punch back. 

Starling scored again to cut the lead to just a point with 37 seconds to play. However, Brey elected not to foul. Florida State had just four team fouls, meaning that they had two fouls to give before the Irish would be in the bonus. The Seminoles held the ball to the very end of the shot clock before missing a three-pointer. Notre Dame had one last chance with 6.5 seconds remaining in the contest. 

Yet Florida State could foul twice, whittling away precious time. Perhaps anticipating this strategy, Wertz quickly threw the ball ahead, attempting to find graduate guard Cormac Ryan. He was unsuccessful, the ball went out of bounds, and the Seminoles held on for a one-point lead. 

“I thought Trey’s read on the cut by Cormac there at the end was great. He just threw it a little long,” Brey said. “I don’t want him losing sleep on it, even though I’m sure he will.”

Following the loss, Notre Dame has plummeted to the bottom of the ACC standings. They lost each of their first two conference games by just a point. The Irish have a chance to regain their confidence against non-conference foe Jacksonville after the holiday break before ACC play begins in earnest.