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Notre Dame Basketball

Better Nate Than Never: Notre Dame senior spurs upset-win

January 5, 2022

Nate Laszewski missed his first 3-point attempt Wednesday night inside Purcell Pavilion.

Contested, open and even falling down – should that have been an and-1 triple? – Laszewski never missed another long-range shot all night.

In its Atlantic Coast Conference home opener, Notre Dame needed every one of the senior forward’s season-best six 3-pointers, part of his team-best 20 points, as well as a combined 35 points from Dane Goodwin and Blake Wesley in a 78-73 upset of visiting North Carolina (10-4, 2-1).

“I think we had a little vengeance coming into this game, realizing we didn’t end on a good note last year,” said Goodwin, who had 17 and hit two free throws with less than six ticks to secure the win. “We kind of want to get it back a little bit. As we get into this ACC schedule, every game is a tough game.

“We all know that. Came into game with a good mindset, how to attack it and we executed.”

Execution was a must inside the final four minutes.  

The Fighting Irish (8-5, 2-1 ACC) commanded a 13-point lead with less than 14 minutes on the clock and held a 10-point lead – with a chance for more – with less than 10 minutes left in the game.

Still, the Tar Heels rallied all the way back to briefly take the lead, 67-66, as Armando Bacot scored the last of his game-high 21 points with just three minutes, 28 seconds to play.

“Experience,” said ND coach Mike Brey. “It was Prentiss (Hubb) the other night (hitting a game-winning jumper at Pittsburgh last week), Nate tonight.

“What I’ve been impressed with last two games, the huddles under 8 minutes and it has been really close games, (the outcome) not sure, we came out pretty poised and figured out a way to finish. We’ve shown some real toughness, poise and belief.”

Laszewski answered with a 3 that put ahead the Irish for keeps; they closed the game on a 12-6 run.

“Yeah definitely when you see your first couple go in you know it’s going to be a good night, at least shooting the ball,” said Laszewski, who established season-highs in points, 3s and minutes (35). “Luckily I got some more shots in the second half, too. … I just wanted to make those shots and get those guys the assists.”

Though Prentiss Hubb had just seven points on 2-for-9 shooting and meager 2-for-6 at the free-throw line, the senior point guard hit a key trey in the second half and converted two of three charity tosses during the closing stretch.

Notre Dame rode Wesley’s electric performance and a diverse 3-point attack to the first-half lead.

The Fighting Irish saw Wesley score 13 of the team’s 39 points, hitting a 3, a dunk and four other buckets. Notre Dame then got a trio of threes from Laszewski, who two years ago inside Purcell Pavilion hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to topple North Carolina, as well as a pair of long-range connections from Cormac Ryan and a triple from Trey Wertz.

Off the bench, Ryan also proved his defensive value. The senior guard elicited a pair of charging fouls against the Tar Heels in nine minutes.

Though Bacot abused the Irish along the interior through the opening 20 minutes, Notre Dame largely kept itself out of foul problems. Paul Atkinson Jr., saddled with the primary duties of trying to defend against the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Bacot, was whistled for two fouls but the Irish otherwise just collected two additional fouls as a team.

Caleb Love and RJ Davis combined for 34 points for the Heels, as well as six of the team’s eight triples. UNC had entered the game shooting 40% from distance on the season but was held to 8-for-22.

Notre Dame led by as many as 10 in the first half, 29-19, after Wesley’s steal and fast-break dunk at the 9;21 mark, and the Irish again led, 39-31, off Laszewski’s third 3-pointer of the half.

But the Heels scored the final four points of the opening frame.

Notre Dame visits Georgia Tech Saturday (6 p.m., ACC Network) before it returns home in one week to host Clemson (7 p.m., regional broadcast).

“It’s a huge one,” Brey said. “If you can get to 3-1 in this league, man, you are starting to really feel it. We’ve really gotta get some rest (Thursday).

And then we’re going to play against the zone, play their little matchup-zone down there. It’s a tough place to play. We were in position last year playing really well and we couldn’t finish it. There’s a good vibe about this week. I think we found something. Let’s see if we can take it on the road.”

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