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Notre Dame Basketball

Irish notebook: Ryan rises to challenge, 'Big 3' look big again for ND

January 6, 2022

The first glance at Cormac Ryan’s box score looks just like a decent little night off the bench.

Eleven points for the Notre Dame senior guard, 14 of his 23 minutes in the second half, and three rebounds as well as two critical made free throws against just a pair of turnovers.

All elements pivotal Wednesday in the Fighting Irish’s 78-73 win against North Carolina inside Purcell Pavilion, where Notre Dame now has dispatched college basketball royalty Kentucky and UNC in less than four weeks.

Yet a pair of Ryan’s seminal plays in this oh-so-needed win were as he drew charges against Tar Heels as they worked toward the basket.

“He is a warrior,” Mike Brey said of Ryan, who opened the season as a starter but has since carved a role as the Irish’s most reliable bench figure. “I do think bringing him off the bench has helped a little bit. He comes in and evaluates and is a little calmer.”

Ryan had six points in nine first-half minutes, hitting a pair of threes, but he had no rebounds. With more time on the floor and the need for his aggressive defense, Ryan repeatedly showed up in the second half of Notre Dame’s fourth win in a row, second-straight in Atlantic Coast Conference play, and fifth victory in six games.

“One of the things, I think a mistake I made, I didn’t play him enough in the first half, only played him (nine) minutes,” Brey said. “He should have played more and (I) corrected that error in the second half. He is our best defensive guard. He took the charges, and we kept flipping him to (RJ) Davis or (Caleb) Love, depending on who we were afraid of the next couple minutes. And he just stayed in front of them. He just works. Made some big shots.

“He’s a believer, too, man. Thrilled for him, man. He works at it and wants to win.”


Dane Goodwin has been Mr. Consistency this season for the Fighting Irish. The senior shooting guard is the only Notre Dame player this season to crack double figures in all dozen games.

He’s averaging 15.1 points per game while connecting on almost 47% of his 3-point attempts (29-for-62).

But after Nate Laszewski’s heroics against North Carolina, and on the heels of Prentiss Hubb’s return to his fearless form in rescuing Notre Dame with last week’s game-winning shot at Pittsburgh, Brey is trying to get his veteran foundation synced up for the remainder of the ACC slate.

“I’m darn-sure going to convince them that here we go,” Brey said. “Because Dane’s been there. Now we got all three of you guys cranking.”

Aside from Laszewski’s season-best 20-point performance that included six made 3s against the Tar Heels, Brey pointed out his senior post’s defense – especially as typically rock-steady Paul Atkinson Jr. was limited by Armando Bacot to his worst game of the season with just two points and six rebounds.

After Bacot led the way with 16 first-half points for UNC, he was limited to just five in the second half as the Irish used Laszewski more, and mixed up defenses.

“For Nate, a lot of people say, ‘He only got four shots, he only got five shots,’” Brey said of previous games. “He’s not going to go just get a shot, but he does play with very good passers. And (Wednesday) they really found him, and he is moving himself around in some of the stuff we’re doing offensively and learning to be crafty and find some spots. And man, every one he rose up to take, I thought was going in. I’m thrilled for him.

“What’s probably lost in him shooting the ball so well is that the man defends his backside off. He works. And he’s dealing with Bacot most of the night. And then he rebounds. And then he rotates over and takes a charge. And he talks. He just gives so much effort on that defensive end. It’d be nice to see all three of these guys in Atlanta. ‘Y’all ready now? Everybody ready now? Let’s go. Here we go.’”

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