On Thursday night, Notre Dame took their 3-0 ACC record (and five-game win streak) to South Beach to face the 11-3 Miami Hurricanes. At the time of tip-off, Notre Dame was one of two undefeated (in ACC play) teams left. The other, Florida State, took advantage of their opportunity to impress in primetime on Tuesday night, obliterating seventh-ranked Duke 88-72 at home. Though tonight’s game lacked the marquee, top-ten opponent for the Irish, it was still a tough test for Notre Dame in the form of a road game in the ACC.
In the first half, the Miami defense frustrated the Irish with tenacious on-ball pressure. They hedged screens hard, forcing the Irish out of their rhythm.
Notre Dame answered with a few transition points to hang in the game, and then adjusted their offense to take advantage of screen and rolls. With the injection of Austin Torres, Notre Dame found some energy late in the first half. On defense, the Irish switched to zone, shutting down Miami’s driving offense. Thanks to these adjustments, the Irish weathered the early storm from the Hurricanes, and headed into the locker room for halftime tied at 28.
Following some half-time adjustments by Coach Mike Brey and company, the Irish came out hot in the second half. Following a 10-0 run, Notre Dame found themselves up by 10.
It wouldn’t last long. Miami rediscovered themselves thanks to a 13-2 run, and the game was tied at 52 with about 6:20 left. Things then got a little dicy down the stretch, with the Hurricanes building momentum and eventually a four-point lead. The Irish, however, battled back, and the game was tied yet again with 90 seconds to go. After a Miami missed free throw, Notre Dame found themselves up by one, with the ball, and just around 40 seconds left.
The rest is, as they say, history. Steve Vasturia’s lay-in put the Irish up by three points with 7.1 seconds left. Cue another turnover from the Hurricanes, and the game was all but wrapped up. On a night in which rebounds, loose balls and calls all seemed to go in favor of the Hurricanes, the Irish gutted out a win anyway. Thanks to only one turnover in the second half and even more gutsy play from the veteran Irish, Notre Dame broke Miami’s 21-game home winning streak, and won at Miami for the first time since joining the ACC.
As a quick takeaway from the game, Austin Torres may have just found himself. In the last two games, his energy off the bench has lifted the Irish when the team is otherwise struggling. It’s a hole left by Zach Auguste’s energetic play on the boards (especially the offensive boards) and on the screen-and-roll, in which Torres can fit.
VJ Beachem needs to be more aggressive going forward. On Thursday night, Miami recorded a season-high in blocks. Notre Dame struggles to get to the line, as I’ve noted before, and has their shots blocked seemingly quite a bit. It has something to do with the perpetual size disadvantage the Irish experience, sure. But at 6’ 8”, Beachem is one of the few guys on this squad that can get shots up and get calls when he goes the hoop. He needs to do more of that.
The Irish extend their win streak to six games, and open up conference play at an impressive 4-0. The Irish will face Buzz Williams’ Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg on Saturday afternoon.