This week saw improvement from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team, in the sense that they won one game, where in several previous weeks they won zero. Progress!
Let’s go through these results and pick out some patterns.
Last Week’s Results
L @ NC State Wolfpack, 85-82
W vs. Louisville Cardinals, 76-62
A classic 2022-23 high-scoring loss followed by a ho-hum home win against a truly awful opponent. What did we learn?
Star(ling) of the Week
The most consistent performer across these two games for the Irish was freshman guard J.J. Starling, who notched 18 points against NC State and 22 against Louisville. Starling showed off the ability to score from all over the court, consistently finishing after gaining dribble penetration while knocking down both mid-range jumpers and three-pointers.
While Starling has yet to grow into a complete point guard in terms of facilitating the overall offense, his clear potential as a scorer is a rare cause for optimism on this year’s team. The twilight of the Brey era has been dominated by a core of players from the 2018 recruiting class who will all be gone after this year. Whoever takes over as Notre Dame’s new coach is going to need playmakers with experience to turn things around, and if Starling sticks around in South Bend he could be central in that resurgence.
Turning on Turnovers
The Irish player similar games and reached similar scoring totals on offense in each of their games this week, but suffered a narrow loss in one and won a resounding victory in the other. If you are searching for the difference, you only need look in one place: the turnover column.
The Irish were utterly unable to disrupt NC State’s offense, generating only two turnovers. That lack of disruption allowed Jarkel Joiner to rack up 28 points and the rest of the Pack’s offense to get one open look, one second chance after another. On the other hand, a more energetic performance combined with Louisville’s ineptitude helped the Irish pick up five steals, with the Cardinals totaling twelve turnovers. Keeping Louisville off the scoreboard and generating points in transition allowed the Irish to keep a lid on this game, and generating such havoc will be key to any continued improvement by the Irish this year.
Enjoy Them Before They’re Gone
While Starling’s performances this week gave fans some cause for optimism about the future, Irish fans did also get to enjoy some vintage performances from a pair of departing veterans. Cormac Ryan recorded 19 points on 11-of-14 shooting on the road in Raleigh, the kind of shooting performance that helped him lead many an Irish win in better years. Against Louisville, big Nate Laszewski scored 17 and added ten rebounds.
Ryan and Laszewski, along with Trey Wertz and Dane Goodwin, are part of a nucleus of players that stretches back through the last 3-4 seasons. While they haven’t always been world-beaters, this group of players has never failed to fight and has delivered some great moments in its time here, and with their era of Irish hoops ending it’s a great time to appreciate them.