Many wrote off the subpar three-game road trip as just that, a road trip. It's college basketball, teams don't play as well on the road.
Now it's getting real. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-10, 10-7) were run out of their own building Wednesday night by the Miami-Florida Hurricanes (24-5, 13-4) right off the opening whistle. The Canes scored 12 before the Irish got on the board and started the game on a 21-3 run.
Notre Dame has been a pretty bad first half team, even in many of their best wins, but that was just too much to overcome. They fought and squeezed back into the game at various points, but they were always held at arm's length by a veteran Miami team that looks a lot like Notre Dame did last season.
The Irish were just awful from the field, most notably by their starting guard duo that has led what, for most of the season until recently, has been one of the best offenses in the country. Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia combined for a terrible 3 of 22 from the field. Since the big Louisville game a few weeks ago, the Irish have average just 60 points per game.
In watching the game, you could see Zach Auguste try to lift his team on his back and will them back into the game. He finished with a strong 18 points and 11 rebounds, but you could also sense his effort was causing him to make some mistakes. Every time Auguste (or anyone) looked like he got going, Miami nailed a three on the other end, and trading twos for threes just does not work when trying to climb back from a major deficit.
Miami was led by Angel Rodriguez, who finished with 19 points and hit back-breaker after back-breaker in the second half whenever the Irish looked like they might be making a push. He was joined in double-figures by Sheldon McClellan, Tonye Jekiri, and Davon Reed in a well-balanced offensive effort.
If you didn't believe it before, you have to admit it now; this team just looks like it might be bottoming out heading into tournament season. They continually get off to poor starts, have lost their offensive flow, and cannot seem to find any consistency with their rotation. When Jackson and Vasturia are struggling like this, they can lose (and lose badly) to anyone.
Notre Dame closes out the regular season on Saturday against NC State (12pm, CBS) in what is far from a sure thing at this point. The Irish need the win to push their record to 11-7, a far cry from where everyone thought they would be sitting at 9-4 just three weeks ago. A win Saturday and Duke loss to UNC (assuming VT holds on against Pitt right now) would still, miraculously, earn Notre Dame a double-bye for the ACC Tournament.