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Notre Dame Basketball

Notre Dame Escapes Radford in Home Opener, 79-76

November 10, 2022
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Cormac Ryan played the hero in Notre Dame’s 79-76 victory over Radford on Thursday. 

With the Irish down 76-75 late, he drove hard to the right and finished a contested layup with 9 seconds left to take a one-point lead. 

Ryan finished with 10 points, and coach Mike Brey improved to 23-0 in home openers at Notre Dame. 

The Irish trailed for nearly 75 percent of the game, including 19 minutes in the second half.

“I'm proud of our group to escape tonight because were are a couple of times under 10 minutes where I didn't think [we're going to],” coach Mike Brey said.

Forward Nate Laszewski led the game with 28 points and 12 rebounds, the former a career-high. He also chipped in three assists. 

The 6-10 forward came up big when the Irish needed him most: to start the game and down the stretch. 

He scored Notre Dame's first nine points and then caught fire in the last five minutes of the game, scoring 10 of Notre Dame’s 15 points. 

Trey Wertz stepped up with Niagara graduate transfer Marcus Hammond out. He scored 18 points on seven of nine from the field and made four of five attempts beyond the arc. 

“I told Trey Wertz the other day, 'don't give the position back. Take it,'” Brey said. “Well, he dang sure put an exclamation on it. We're going to need Marcus Hammond when he comes back, but he doesn't need to start. You just take that job.”

For all their offensive success, the Irish struggled on the defensive end. Notre Dame allowed Radford to shoot 40 percent from beyond the arc and forced just six turnovers. 

Freshman JJ Starling made his Fighting Irish debut. The McDonald’s All-American started and scored 9 points. 

“That was a great experience,” Brey said. “He was in there in his first college game when it was hitting the fan. I thought he made some nice plays and, and was part of that vibe that figured out how to win.”

BIG PICTURE

The Irish survived by playing just six players in their win over Radford, with freshman big man Ven-Allen Lubin contributing six points in 16 minutes off the bench. 

Notre Dame will likely continue with its six-man rotation for at least the next two games with Hammond out. 

Brey is accustomed to relying on a thin bench, even if four starters are fifth-year players. 

“I would like to give them a little more of a blow at times,” Brey said, “but old guys, they know how to play through stuff.”

At the same time, there’s little room for error when two-thirds of the rotation consists of true freshmen. How the Irish navigate the rest of November could prove significant in their quest to return to the NCAA Tournament. 

HE SAID IT

The Irish get revenge. 

Six mid-major programs have won at Notre Dame during Mike Brey’s tenure, but Radford was the first to return after defeating the Irish 63-60 in 2018. 

Brey seemed more relieved than boastful upon the completion of his post-game press conference.

“Radford will never come back in my tenure,” Brey said.

NEXT UP

The Irish will host Youngstown State at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13. The high-flying Penguins are 2-0 and averaging 91 points per game. 

“Youngstown State has a chance to win their league,” Brey said. “It gets you ready for ACC play. I get all that, but it was more for the math of strength of schedule.”

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