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Notre Dame Basketball

Notre Dame Sends Mike Brey Out Right, Upsets No. 25 Pitt 88-81

March 1, 2023

No. 25 Pitt. 

John Gaffney. 

Mike Brey’s last home game. 

A date set with The Linebacker. 

What more could one want on a Wednesday night in March? 

Oh, a win. Notre Dame (11-19, 3-16) and Mike Brey also got that as the Irish upset Pittsburgh (21-9, 14-5) on Wednesday evening. 

Marcus Hammond and Cormac Ryan led the way for Notre Dame as they both scored 20 points in their final game at Purcell Pavilion. 

“What an unbelievable night,” Brey stated. “I’m very proud of our guys. Pitt is really good. We defended pretty much for the whole game and it was neat to feel this atmosphere one last time. Our crowd was great.” 

It was an atmosphere as Brey walked on the court pregame to a crowd of people waiting for him at the end of the home tunnel. Brey also stayed true to his words on Tuesday as he didn’t let his emotions take over the night. 

The Irish were also ready as Notre Dame went on an 11-0 run to break open the game 42-28 at the half, which included a three from Hammond and an and-one from Ryan. 

“We wanted it bad for a variety of reasons,” said Ryan. “This has obviously been a challenging season and I think it hasn’t gone the way everyone expected it to - most importantly the guys in the locker room. It’s been draining mentally and physically, but at no point have we ever given up. 

“There was starting to be a little bit of a narrative that the guys don’t want to win and people are ready for spring break. Nobody wanted it more than the guys in that locker room. To send Coach out with a win, it means everything to us. Winning in this building despite everything that’s happened up to this point is special.

Notre Dame has been up after 20 minutes plenty of times this season only to watch momentum turn in the second half. Wednesday was different as the Irish pushed a 12-point lead to 16 in two minutes. 

“Most of the game we have been up at halftime,” Hammond stated. “We’ve come out flat and teams have whittled away and scored 40 or 50 in the second half. We came in and said not again. We’re not doing this again. They came out on a run, but we stopped them and got on our run.” 

As Brey highlighted, Notre Dame’s defense didn’t make the game easy for Pitt, who attacked the rim relentlessly in the second half. Nelly Cummings, Jamarius Burton and Nike Sibande all fhinished with 19 points each for Pitt, but they also couldn’t hit the freebie. 

The Panthers shot 36 free throws, but made just 20, while the Irish also got the foul line and hit 26-of-31. Cummings, Burton and Sibande combined to make 5-of-12 free throws on the night. 

The last few days weren’t easy for Robby Carmody, Dane Goodwin, Nate Laszewski, Trey Wertz, Hammond and Ryan as they had to deal with struggling during ACC play, Brey’s last game and their last game at home. 

Yet, the Irish pushed past the distractions and finished. 

“He’s never changed from when we were losing until today,” explained Hammond. “We were keeping the same spirit and energy. We knew it was everyone’s last game and it added a little bit more motivation, but it was the same routine and same schedule.” 

Notre Dame’s 3-16 ACC record will be forgotten for a night as it’s a celebration of six seniors, but also a 23-year career. 

It just shows how resilient this group is,” stated Ryan. “Anybody can be fired up and ready to play when you’re winning 15 games in the ACC like we did last year. When you’re sitting at two wins, to come out and be ready to play and beat a Top 25 team tells a lot about this group.” 

The Irish will finish the regular season at Clemson on Saturday, but Ryan feels Notre Dame is a team that no one will want to see next week at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro. 

“It feels great,” said Ryan. “We got a lot to work with. Call me crazy, but I feel the same way about this group when I was talking to you guys in June. I feel the same exact way. It hasn’t gone our way. We’ve been in a lot of close ball games, but I’m telling you I wouldn’t want to play us. I wouldn’t want to play us in Greensboro I’ll tell you that.” 

Mike Brey announced to the basketball and Notre Dame world he had never been to The Linebacker on Tuesday afternoon and he would be making his first appearance following Wednesday’s game win, lose or draw. 

Over 70 former players were in town and most will be making the trip across the street to celebrate the night, but Cormac Ryan won’t be joining them.

“I am not,” laughed Ryan. “I have a final exam tomorrow. 1pm. I’ll be there.” 

Brey will make that trip and will likely go 2-0 on the night. 

“We might have lost games at times, but we never lose a party,” said Brey. “See you at the 'Backer!"

Notre Dame will travel to Clemson for a 8:00pm tip on ACC Network. 

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