The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team kicked off the 2022-2023 season with a very narrow victory Thursday night, needing a bucket in the last 10 seconds and a final stop to defeat the Radford Highlanders 79 to 76 at home in Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish were led on the night by Nate Laszewski, who started his final season with the Irish in style, notching a double-double by scoring 28 points (7-of-11 from the field, 12-of-15 from the free throw line) and reeling in 12 rebounds. Trey Wertz had himself a fantastic game as well, scoring 18 points and dishing out 4 assists while shooting 7-of-9 from the field and 4-of-5 from long range. Cormac Ryan (10 points, 6 rebounds), J.J. Starling (9 points, 3 rebounds), and Dane Goodwin (8 points, 5 rebounds) chipped in as well.
As a team, Notre Dame shot 52% from the field and 36% from long range (8-for-22) while narrowly winning the rebounding battle 32 to 29 but losing the turnover battle to 10 to 6.
The Highlanders were paced in scoring on the evening by Kenyon Giles (20 points, 4-of-7 from deep), while DaQuan Smith (18 points) and Josiah Jeffers (13 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) added nice games as well. Radford shot 46% from the floor and 40% from three-point range.
ND got off to a bit of a slow start in this one, allowing Radford to jump out to an early 5-point lead as Nate Laszewski had to score all 9 of the Irish’s points heading into the first media timeout, with the rest of the team getting going pretty slowly.
Soon after that first timeout, though, true freshman Ven-Allen Lubin entered the game for Notre Dame and immediately made his presence known, providing some nice energy and a couple baskets, including an emphatic put-back slam.
Lubin’s play off the bench combined with a few other guys like Wertz and Starling making some plays to help drive a 10-1 ND run to seize the lead for the first time all game about 12 minutes in, leading 23-22 at that point.
It appeared the Irish had found a groove and threatened to start putting some distance between themselves and the Highlanders, going up 34-27 during a stretch where they made 8 straight shots from the field. Unfortunately, Radford refused to go away that easily, hitting back-to-back threes to tie the game at 35 and then grabbing the lead back late in the half, making 5 of 6 shots to go up 39-37.
Starling, though, buried the second three-pointer of his career, and after a stop on the other end the Irish entered the break up by 1 point on the Highlanders, who made 6-of-14 from three in the first half and only turned it over once while the Irish turned it over 6 times.
In the second half, the Irish started 0-for-5 from the floor and allowed Radford to use a 10-2 run to jump out to a 49-42 lead about 6 minutes in. By the under-12 timeout, Radford still led by 7 and the Irish were reeling, playing some pretty bad defense while struggling to score on the other end.
It was around this time that Dane Goodwin got fouled hard on a drive to the hoop, which seemed to change the tone of the game and the ND team’s attitude a bit. Soon after, Wertz buried a DEEP three, and then after Radford answered with one of their own, Wertz drained another and let out a primal scream, clearly pumped-up about ND cutting the deficit to 2, with Radford up 64-62 with less than 7 minutes remaining in the game.
For the next few minutes, Radford seemed to have a response for everything the Irish managed to produce on the offensive end, as they used the pick-and-roll beautifully to carve up the ND defense.
But with less than 4 minutes to go, Laszewski began to take over again, snagging a rebound to secure a double-double and then knocking down a three on the other end to cut the Irish deficit to 1 with 3:21 left to play.
Radford hovered around a 1-to-3-point lead for the next couple minutes, leading 76-75 with the ball with less than 30 seconds to go. But after the Irish forced a stop and DaQuan Smith went down with an injury, Notre Dame was able to push the ball up the floor and use the 5-on-4 advantage, with Wertz finding Ryan cutting to the hoop for a layup to take a 1-point lead with just 9 seconds to go.
Radford got a decent look from Jeffers on their final real possession, but it didn’t fall and Laszewski grabbed the rebound and drew a foul with 0.4 seconds left. He hit both free throws, and then Radford’s desperation full-court heave was just off the mark, and Notre Dame managed to escape with a 79-76 victory.
With the win, the Irish start the season 1-0 for the 23rd straight time under Mike Brey, and will play next on Sunday at 4 PM ET, when they will host the Youngstown State Penguins and look to get to 2-0 in a bit more comfortable fashion.