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Notre Dame Basketball

Freshmen Shine for Notre Dame in 70-65 Win Over Wake Forest

February 27, 2024

For the second game in a row, Notre Dame (11-17, 6-11) was in a game where the first half looked much different than the final 20 minutes. 

On Tuesday, the end result was different as the Fighting Irish came out with a hard-earned 70-65 victory over Wake Forest (18-10, 10-7), which entered the game on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament. 

“They’re a really good team,” stated Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry. “I’ve seen teams in the tournament from a lot of different leagues. That’s an NCAA Tournament team right there. They have three guards who can go score and get you a bucket. They have two big dudes. 

“I thought our guys really dug in and competed and guarded in the second half. We willed ourselves to a win.” 

Markus Burton continued his push to be ACC Freshman of the Year as he dropped a career-high 31 points on an efficient 9-for-15 from the field. The Mishawaka native also added three rebounds and three assists. 

Fellow freshman Braeden Shrewsberry had been on a hit streak from deep entering the game as he had hit 13 three-pointers in the last two games, but the 6-foot-3 guard started 1-for-8 from behind the arc. 

The slow start didn’t hold back Shrewberry’s confidence in the least. Shrewsberry hit a dagger from deep to put the Irish up 64-60 with 1:28 left, which allowed the Irish momentum to finish the Demon Deacons off. He finished with 11 points on the night. 

“It’s hard,” stated Shrewsberry. “Wake always does a good job of trying to take away guys. We kind of expected they were going to do some stuff with him. He got into the paint, but was a little rushed with how they were guarding him and that led into some of his threes being rushed. 

“We just tried to tell him to stay with it. He never lacks for confidence. That was a huge shot for us.” 

If there was any doubt about how the game would unfold, Tae Davis hit a layup with 22 seconds left to put the game away. Davis’ 11 points won’t jump out, but the sophomore was aggressive from the start as he finished 5-of-10 from the floor despite being in foul trouble for most of the second half. 

Davis’ biggest contribution on the night came on the defensive end. Wake Forest guard Hunter Sallis entered the game averaging 18.7 ppg and he was held to just seven points on 2-for-11 from the field. 

“Whoever the best player is, that’s Tae’s matchup and we match up everyone else around it,” Shrewsberry said. “He’s starting to get more aggressive, scoring in the post a little bit and some of those tough drives.” 

Wake Forest was led by point guard Boopie Miller’s 16 points and five assists while Cameron Hildreth added 15 points and eight rebounds. 

Burton’s 31 points will help his run at ACC Freshman of the Year, but it was freshman Carey Booth who came up big on Tuesday night. Booth scored 15 points, which included three treys and going 4-of-5 from the free throw line in 34 minutes of action. For good measure, Booth also added five rebounds and blocked two shots. 

“I’ve been a shooter my whole life,” said Booth. “I just struggled recently, so just staying confident in my shot. Getting shots and keep getting them up gave me confidence for sure.”

Booth hadn’t scored in double figures since the win over Virginia in December, but it didn’t stop him from putting in the work. Notre Dame Development and Recruiting Cooridnator Grady Eifert has been working with Booth early in the morning and results are starting to show as Booth has scored 33 points over the last three contests. 

“He’s growing,” stated Shrewsberry. “He’s fighting and finding ways even if he’s making or not making threes. He’s getting into the paint, hitting some pullups and trying to get to some post ups. The different things we’re working on, he’s trying to put it into his game.” 

28 games into the year, Booth has had his ups and downs, but the trial by fire is starting to pay off. Booth has found not only confidence in his game, but a comfort level while on the floor. 

“The more I play, the more it feels natural out there taking the shots, driving, being physical and showing emotion,” stated Booth. “I’ve definitely got more comfortable doing that.” 

Notre Dame’s defense disappeared in the first half for the second game in a row as Wake Forest scored 43 points and 58.6 percent from the floor. At halftime, Notre Dame settled down, made corrections and then held the Demon Deacons to just 22 points on 8-for-30 from the field in the final twenty minutes. 

“We were kind of a step behind in the first half. We talked about it at halftime - some of the adjustments we needed to make. We were two-way helpers instead of one-way helpers and I thought we changed that a little bit.” 

The Irish dominated at the free throw line hitting 19-of-22 while Wake Forest hit 8-of-10 for the game. Notre Dame went 12-of-13 in the second half, which was the difference in the game for multiple reasons. It allowed the Irish to score crucial points, but also set a defense to make life tougher on the Demon Deacons. 

“Getting some buckets, getting to the free throw line, our defense is set every possession,” explained Shrewsberry. “We weren’t turning the ball over. If our defense is set, we’re hard to score on and that helps get it to where we want to play.” 

Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes has seen the issues of getting to foul line play out multiple times on the road, so Tuesday’s result didn’t come as a surprise.

“We got slaughtered at the free throw line,” said Forbes. “Can’t win that way. It’s been the same story for us on the road pretty much the entire year. We had some really costly turnovers last that hurt us. We just didn’t make tough plays down the stretch on both ends of the court.” 

The Irish have put the team on Burton’s back from day one and the Mishawaka native has embraced it. Burton, who won ACC Rookie of the Week for the first time this week, is upping his game even more as the season comes to an end. 

The 31-point performance follows Saturday’s game at Syracuse where he scored 28 and in those games, Burton is shooting 55 percent from the field while hitting 17-of-18 from the foul line. 

“He’s been circled on the scouting report since game one,” said Shrewsberry. “That’s hard to do night after night. He has to do it every single game. He’s just rising to the occasions and he’s getting better. He’s seeing the game and the game is slowing down for him. He’s making his teammates better. He’s guarding and competing on the other end. He’s doing a lot for our team and that’s tough for a freshman.” 

Much like Booth, Burton has put in the work and it’s developed an overwhelming confidence that he’s been able to show over the course of the season. 

“I think just trusting the process and the coaches,” Burton stated. “They all wanted me to trust them and I trust them. Things are working out for us. I put the work in every single day. I feel like my team has my back. Carey played his butt off. I played good, but he played great minutes and did a lot of great things for us. It’s was just an all around good game for us.” 

Forbes also had high praise for Burton following the first of what is likely to be many meetings. 

“He has really good change of pace,” Forbes stated. “He can play really fast and he can slow down. He plays off his shot fake, which is hard. He gets into the lane and gets you off your feet to draw fouls. He’s a good enough three-point shooter so you have to guard him there and can’t go under on the ball screen. He just has that shot making knack and that’s something you just have. 

“He’s a really good player. He’s one of the better guards in our league.” 

Burton’s first 30-point game is also the fourth in Notre Dame history as he joins the club of Adrian Dantley, Chris Thomas and Troy Murphy. 

Notre Dame will play its final home game of the season on Saturday as Clemson comes to Purcell Pavilion. Tip is set for 7:45 PM ET on The CW. 

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