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Notre Dame Basketball

Djogo-matic: Notre Dame reserve shines in Irish's ACC win

February 14, 2021
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Foul problems and cold shooting easily could have doomed Notre Dame Sunday night inside Purcell Pavilion.

Instead, a most unlikely star emerged for the host Fighting Irish: fifth-year role player Nik Djogo.

Paced by Djogo's game-high 18 points – just three off his career best second two years ago at Boston College – in 26 minutes off the bench, Notre Dame rallied past Miami, 71-61, in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

The Irish (9-10, 5-7), winners in six of their last eight, have a chance to nudge back to .500 Wednesday if they can knock off Clemson at home; they last were even on the season December 12, 2020, when a win at Kentucky left them at 2-2.

“I give our guys credit, they've rolled with the punches when we've had cancellations and gaps,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I just told them we've got an opportunity in a team with a team in Clemson that has an NCAA Tournament resume. You have a chance to get your record to 7-7.

“We didn't get to .500 in the league till senior day last year, digging out of the hole. So maybe we're a little ahead of the game this year.”

After Miami hit on 10 of its first 18 shots from the floor, it finished the game just 12-for-50 over the final 30-plus minutes. The Irish also outrebounded their longer, more athletic visitors, 45-42.

Notre Dame trailed 54-52 after Elijah Olaniyi's 3-pointer deep into the second half, but it closed the game on a 19-7 run to notch its sixth ACC win.

Nate Laszewski, who sat for more than the final nine minutes of the opening, scored 12 of his 14 points from that point forward as the Irish scored their second-fewest points this season in a win against a Power-5 foe. They toppled Kentucky, 64-62.
“I think it's definitely good for us to have to dig in and do a lot of tough stuff,” said the junior Laszewski. “Rebound the ball, dig out 50-50 balls. I think it helps us a lot going forward.”

For all of Djogo's offensive highlights – he blended a pair of key 3-pointers with a mix of darting moves to the rim – it also was his defensive work that helped Notre Dame sweep the Hurricanes. Djogo finished with an game-high 26 efficiency rating.

Isaiah Wong led Miami with 17 points, but he missed his final four attempts from the floor – in part because of Djogo's harassing defense.

“I feel like these last couple of years I've really stepped up my defensive ability,” Djogo said. “It comes with guarding your guy and taking pride in it. I actually weight more than people think, so I can bang down there with the bigs. And I'm also really quick for my size. If I have to guard guards, I can move my feet pretty well.

“I just like shutting dudes down. And I feel like I've done that the last couple of games.”

No more than five points ever separated the two teams in the opening 20 minutes. Both teams likewise endured scoring droughts that allow the other to rally.

Miami edged ahead of the Irish, which saw foul problems plague Durham and Laszewski, as well as a turned ankle temporarily hobble Ryan, 25-20, with less than 10 minutes till the break.

Yet the Canes mustered just six points the remainder of the half on two-for-19 shooting from the field during that stretch. Likewise, they just one of their first seven free-throw attempts and finished four-for-11 at the stripe in the half.

Notre Dame somehow cobbled together enough defensive stops and got team-bests of nine points and six boards from Djogo off the bench for the 31-all tie at the break.

Durham and Laszewski, who had the Irish's first five fouls, played just 22 combined minutes in the opening half and had nine points. Durham had two fouls before the under-16 media timeout; Laszewski was saddled with his third foul with almost 10 minutes left in the opening frame.

Notre Dame got just seven combined points from Prentiss Hubb and Cormac Ryan, who slapped the hardwood in visible pain when he turned his ankle but returned to play extensively once he reemerged from the locker room. The duo did have seven assists and seven rebounds.

The Irish continue their three-game, six-day stretch Wednesday at home against Clemson (7 p.m., regional TV). They visit Syracuse Saturday (2 p.m., ACC Network).

 
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