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Notre Dame Basketball

Goodbye Jackets, hello bye for Notre Dame hoops

February 26, 2022
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After his image had been featured on a give-away T-shirt throughout the student section, and after his team had chased Georgia Tech back to its Delta jet for a flight home to Atlanta, Mike Brey took a lap.

Not just any victory lap.

Mike Brey, man of the people, walked amongst Notre Dame’s students.

OK, so he jogged. Up one aisle and down the next one. Hand-slaps, high-fives, smiles aplenty

Scarcely a year ago, those sections of Purcell Pavilion – and other ones – anchored chats to “Fire Mike Brey!.”

Saturday afternoon, courtesy his Fighting Irish’s 90-56 win against the Yellow Jackets, Brey watched as his squad locked up a double-bye in next month’s Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, kept alive regular-season league title hopes and secured a 14th conference victory – only the fourth time to accomplish that feat in program history.

“In our profession, you’re going to get put on the mat, you’re going to get put up against it,” Brey said. “That probably was the third time I’ve been put on the mat in 22 years. Fortunately, I’ve had great support.

“People had my back and hung with me, my bosses. I felt if we could get it right with staff and get it right with how we come at it in the summer, I felt we could be really good. We’re better than I thought we could be. I really am proud of how they figured themselves out at 4-5. This is a great example of the coaching profession. You just hang in there and keep working and grinding.

“That’s why I wanted to do a lap with them. But, this job’s been a great fit, man. It’s a great fit, we worked to get momentum back and we got momentum and then some. But as a coach you’re fully aware of what you sign up for in our profession.”

Notre Dame (21-8, 14-4 ACC) seized a commanding 46-27 halftime edge, its largest since a similar 19-point margin Feb. 23, 2020, against Miami, and never led by fewer than 20 points the entirety of the second half.

Dane Goodwin paced the Irish with 17 points, all in the first half, and Blake Wesley added 15. Prentiss Hubb added 13 points and a game-best six assists in just 28 minutes on the floor. Paul Atkinson Jr. added 10 points and Irish guard Cormac Ryan led both teams with 10 rebounds.

“It means a lot,” Hubb, hero of Wednesday’s win against Syracuse, said of the double-bye for the ACC tourney. “I said that before we ran out of the tunnel (before tipoff), that we had to lock in and if we handled tour business tonight, we were going to get that double-bye. …  

“But we’ve never had this feeling before.”

This game was such that Goodwin and Wesley combined to outscore their guests in the first half; their 28 points one more than Tech (11-18, 4-14 ACC) mustered as a team.

“I think Notre Dame, the way they played today, I think they would have beaten anybody,” said Jackets coach Josh Pastern. “Gonzaga, Arizona, Duke, probably wouldn’t have mattered who they played.”

“The Lakers,” added Tech post Jordan Usher, who led his squad with 16 points.

Notre Dame took its first double-digit lead, 16-6, on a triple from Trey Wertz less than six minutes after opening tip, and it led by 12 or more for the final 24 minutes, 25 seconds of the contest.

Notre Dame shot a blistering 67% from the field in the first half in staking itself to a 19-point lead at the break, 18-for-27 from the floor including seven-for-11 from distance.

Goodwin and Wesley combined outscored the Irish’s guests with their 28 points on scintillating 10-for-13 shooting, including five of seven combined from behind the 3-point arc.

“I think Prentiss is a great player, really good; they’re all really good,” Pastern said. “Prentiss and Cormac and Dane Goodwin is having a heck of a year.

“Blake Wesley’s pretty darn good. He changes their whole team. He’s a pro. When you have a pro like that, he’s a first round (NBA) draft pick like that along with the guys shooting that can shoot, they’re really good.

“I think Prentiss is a great player, but Blake Wesley …  you’ve got a first round draft pick on your team.”

Now, the Irish have their first- and second-round byes in the ACC Tournament. Still, if they sweep next week’s games and Duke stumbles, they can claim a share of the ACC’s regular-season crown.

“I think we're in an amazingly strong position,” Brey said of his team’s ultimate goal, the NCAA Tournament. “We've missed it. I've missed it. It's been quite frankly miserable missing it. I fake it good when I run into you guys.

"I think our league is going to get five (bids) at the end of the day. We've handled our business. What's helped us as much as we've chased Selection Sunday since last year is that we're in a race for the regular-season title. It's kept us in the here and now and not projections, bracketology, or people.

“We have a hell of a resume. That's all I'll say."

 
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