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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame hopes to restore confidence in Raleigh

Notre Dame men’s basketball will make its second trip to the Tar Heel State this month, visiting NC State Tuesday night. Notre Dame (9-11, 1-8) assumes the role of underdog after back-to-back losses as the home-court favorite. The Irish are now on their third different three-game losing skid since opening the season 7-2. In spite of Saturday’s loss to North Carolina, NC State (15-5, 5-4) has been superb since tipping off 2023. The Wolfpack started January with four consecutive wins, including a blowout of then-No. 16 Duke and an overtime defeat of then-No. 16 Miami (FL). Tuesday’s game will mark the first and only meeting between Notre Dame and NC State this season.

Terquavion Smith a game-time decision

Sophomore guard Terquavion Smith has been a revelation for the Wolfpack since arriving in Raleigh last season. After posting 16.3 points per game last year, he is now the ACC’s leading scorer (18.7 PPG). However, NC State may not have him Tuesday night. Smith suffered elbow and neck injuries on a contact-heavy lay-up attempt against North Carolina on Saturday. All of his x-rays were negative at UNC Medical Center, and he is currently considered day-to-day. Smith’s mid-season honors include the Wooden Award Top 25 Watch List, the Oscar Robertson Trophy Watch List, and Sporting News Third-Team All-American.

The Pack has his back

If Smith cannot go, NC State has the assets to cover for him and protect home court. Graduate guard Jarkel Joiner, another ACC top ten scorer (16.3 PPG), is certainly in position to play the starring role. The Ole Miss transfer has delivered 20-plus points on six occasions this season, playing an impressive 35 minutes per game. Most recently, Joiner is averaging 18 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists over his last five games. During that stretch, he has nailed 25 of his 27 free throw attempts.

Senior guard Casey Morsell and graduate forward DJ Burns Jr. could also step forward in Smith’s potential absence. Morsell, tallying 12.9 points per game, is among the ACC’s best distance shooters. His 45 percent three-point success rate ranks second in the conference and 12th in the nation. Burns, the big-bodied transfer from Winthrop, has already succeeded in taking on a larger piece of the offense. Since Serbian graduate forward Dusan Mahorcic fell to injury in early December, Burns has pped his scoring and rebounding production. He has made at least five field goals in five straight games, bringing his season scoring average above 10 points for the first time this season.

Notre Dame looks to pounce on Wolfpack shortcomings

Though NC State’s recent 4-1 stretch says otherwise, the Wolfpack have struggled to rebound and shoot from downtown lately. Generally, NC State has been strong on the boards, but the tide has turned over the past week. Georgia Tech pulled down 18 offensive rebounds last Tuesday, while North Carolina out-rebounded the Pack by 15 on Saturday. On the season, the Wolfpack are now 14-1 as the out-rebounders but 1-4 as the out-rebounded. Notre Dame will take whatever advantage is available given its ACC-worst -4.25 rebounding margin.

What the Irish do well, on the other hand, is shoot the three-ball. Notre Dame leads the ACC with 9.25 triples made per game, hitting 36 over its last three games. The Wolfpack owned that conference-leading position for much of the season, but a recent cold stretch has dragged them down. NC State has hit only 22 threes over its last four games, shooting under 30 percent four times over the last six contests. There are avenues for Notre Dame to steal a win, but it'll be difficult against a team eyeing March Madness.

Goodwin and Laszweski stabilize the Irish

The track of Notre Dame’s season has deviated significantly from expectations. Of course, the most recent twist occurred last week, as Mike Brey announced plans to step down from the head coaching position. Though NCAA Tournament berth hopes are dashed, Notre Dame can still benefit from a composed finish. Namely, the Irish must ensure freshman contributors JJ Starling and Ven-Allen Lubin aren’t overwhelmed during the transition period. 

Two of Notre Dame’s veterans, graduate guard Dane Goodwin and graduate forward Nate Laszewski, have acted as anchors with their recent play. Goodwin, after an up-and-down start, has scored in double-figures over each of the last eight games. Though his three-point shooting hasn’t entirely returned to traditional form, he is finding other options to score the ball consistently. Meanwhile, Laszewski is coming off an outstanding day. He poured in a career-high 29 points on 7 made threes and is now averaging 16.2 points per game over his last five. Additionally, the Polish Rifle’s 88.2 free-throw percentage and 42.4 three-point percentage both rank among the ACC’s top three. 

Notre Dame owns a 10-8 advantage over NC State in the all-time series. Last season, the Irish snapped a four-game losing streak against the Pack by sweeping them over a 10-day span. Tuesday night’s matchup will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. ET from PNC Arena. The game will be available on both the ACC Network and the Notre Dame Radio Network.

Contact Tyler Reidy at