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Notre Dame Basketball

Ugly Saturday in South Bend, Syracuse 62-61 Winners

December 3, 2022

Notre Dame (6-2) has had some ugly games over the last five years. Saturday was far from the worst, but Syracuse (4-4) came into Purcell Pavilion and left with a grind it out 62-61 win over Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish. 

The Syracuse 2-3 zone always keeps opposing coaches up at night and Brey might be up for a while tonight as the Irish shot just 32.3 percent from the floor over the final two minutes. 

And yes, rough shooting is expected vs. the zone, but Notre Dame went from the 6:33 mark to the 1:18 mark in the second half without scoring a point. That’s where Saturday turned from a bad performance to an ugly one for the Irish. 

“There’s probably a little bit of state of mind when you play against it,” Brey said of the Syracuse Zone. “It tends to tranquilize the whole building and you’re defense a little bit. I thought we were really patient. We had a couple clock violations, but I’d rather us keep moving it and get a good one. 

“We had 15 assists, but we made eight in the first half and you’re going to have to make 5-6 more. You have to be at 12 threes against them.” 

Dane Goodwin led the Irish with 16 points and Cormac Ryan chipped in 14, but they were the only two Notre Dame players in double figures. Entering the game, Notre Dame was one of four programs in the nation that could boast all five starters averaged in double figures. 

Guards JJ Starling and Trey Wertz combined to shoot 5-for-18 from the floor, but Notre Dame didn’t get anything on the offensive end from fifth-year senior Nate Laszewski as he finished 1-for-6 on field goals for just two points on the day. 

Perhaps the most concerning piece of Laszewski’s performance was Brey didn’t really have an answer on how to use his 6-foot-10 forward after spending the last five years with him. 

“It was a rough game and against zone, where does he find stuff,” stated Brey. “That’s always kind of been the case. Do we have him in the corner? He had a couple over the top that he just couldn’t grab and finish. Those help a little bit. You get him out on the side gap a little bit to shoot it.

“It’s a different for him versus zone trying to find his stuff. I felt for him. He just couldn’t find it, yet the guy always defends. He’s rebounding and putting his chest on dudes trying to help us win.” 

For the game, Notre Dame shot just 38 percent from the floor, which included going 11-for-33 from deep. Offense was hard for both teams, but Syracuse found a way to get inside the paint as the Orange outscored the Irish 34-18 in the lane. 

“I don’t know if we had good looks,” Brey explained. “We couldn't get in the lane to kick it. We couldn’t get to the foul line or over the top. The one thing we tried to do a little bit and that’s when Cormac hit - could we just get up the floor before its set? We did that a couple times. 

“You have to drive some too. You gotta go high-low a little bit.” 

Freshman forward Ven-Allen Lubin finished with 10 points and eight boards, but the most significant development for Notre Dame was grad transfer guard Marcus Hammond made his season debut after dealing with an MCL sprain. 

Hammond finished his day with six points on 2-for-6 shooting while pulling down two rebounds and dishing out three assists. 

With 29 seconds to play, Hammond came up with a huge three-point play to put Notre Dame up 61-60. It was a positive sign Hammond also played 19 minutes and that will surely go up as he gets in basketball shape. 

“I didn’t what to expect,” said Brey. “We throw him into the fire and I thought he was fabulous. He’s in making plays. He makes the play to give us the lead. He steps up and makes the free throw. For me, it was kind of new territory because I got two subs. You were kind of getting a feel, but he and Ven (Lubin) off the bench are fabulous. We just got a chance to get him in shape now with some practice reps. 

“The kid was fabulous - throwing him in an ACC game after five weeks off. He’s not afraid. I love him.” 

Notre Dame will host Boston University on Wednesday night and then Marquette comes to Purcell pavilion next Sunday for a 4:00 PM tip. 

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