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Notre Dame Basketball

Purcell Perfection: Irish rally past Pack, remain unbeaten at home

January 26, 2022

Perfection remains housed this season inside Purcell Pavilion.

If Notre Dame completes this home-stand with its unblemished home record intact, it then can begin to chart in earnest its postseason aspirations.

For now, the Fighting Irish continue to take care of business – this time a come-from-behind, ugly-enough-to-be-beautiful 73-65 win Wednesday night against visiting North Carolina State that nudged them to 8-0 on their home hardwood.

“I didn’t really say anything to the team against N.C. State, but I kind of said to Nate (Laszewski) and Dane (Goodwin) today at shootaround, we kind of owe these guys, don’t we?,” said ND coach Mike Brey. “And certainly the guys (Virginia) Saturday have really had our number. I don’t even know I if need to bring it up with our veterans because they know.

“I’ll stay away from that.”

Still, what the Irish in recent weeks have transformed into a January-long Atlantic Coast Conference revenge tour is floating hope in a season that a week before Christmas rested at 4-5 with merely one win against a Power 5 foe.

Courtesy Laszewski’s team-best 18, 11 in the decisive second half, and Goodwin’s 17-point performance – his 19th game in 19 tries this season to be in double figures – Notre Dame’s 15-0 second-half run and a litany of hustle plays have the Irish 13-6 overall, 6-2 in ACC play.

Prentiss Hubb added 11 points, five assists and did not commit a turnover in a game-high 40 minutes of floor-time. 

Down 35-30 moments in the second half, the Irish got an assertive Laszewski untracked with his own 8-0 spurt on the strength of a pair of 3-pointers and an authoritative drive-and-dunk.

Soon, Notre Dame’s second five-point deficit of the game had been transformed into a 45-35 edge. The Wolfpack (10-11, 3-7) never got closer than three the remainder of the game, and the Irish, now winners in nine of their last 10, led by multiple possessions for the game’s final nine minutes, 44 seconds.

“I definitely think little bit of both but definitely a mindset,” Laszewski said of both his physical health and determined mindset leading to an augmented approach. “Talking with Coach (Ryan) Humphrey about trying to drive the ball a little bit more, getting to the free-throw line, getting some easy looks there and just getting myself going by driving to the rim. Being more aggressive.”

Blake Wesley finished with 15 points, six boards, four assists and just one turnover in 33 minutes on the floor.

But it was the Irish rookie sensation’s late-game ball-handling and a final-minute drive-and-dish to an open Goodwin in the corner that again showcased Wesley’s every-game growth.

“(Wesley) was getting in there and he was getting fouled, he was having to try and take tough shots over athletes,” Brey said. “We said, ‘When you get in there, don’t be afraid,’ and he’s done this before, ‘be ready to kick.’ Because they were really starting to bite, and that was just a big-time play.

“He didn’t shoot it well but he’s guarding, he’s good against the pressure and then when it comes down to it, he kind of believes. He’s a winner, he really is. We trust to have the ball in his hands.”

Dereon Seabron led the Pack with 21 points, but both Jericole Hellems and Casey Morsell fouled out late for the guests.

Notre Dame was outscored, 36-20, in points in the paint and 10-4 in bench points, but it assisted on 14 of its 22 buckets, hit 11 3-pointers and outscored the Pack, 18-7, at the free-throw line.

Both teams were dreadful from the floor in the opening half, shooting 38% apiece from the floor. The Irish did manage to hit on five of 15 3-point attempts, needed as the Pack outscored their hosts 20-12 in the paint.

The teams were never separated by more than five points in the first 20 minutes; State led 16-11 at its best and Notre Dame had a 22-19 edge moments later.

Notre Dame had a chance to break the tie just before the half, but its final-seconds possession resulted in a miss, and State failed to hit a long-distance trey at the buzzer.

Now, the Irish continue their longest ACC homestand of the season when they host Virginia Saturday, followed by powerhouse Duke Monday.

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