Your Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s hoopers played a pair of intensely contested basketball games full of great efforts last week and came away with no wins, because it’s 2023. Let’s talk about what happened.
Last Week’s Results
L @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 70-68
L vs. Virginia Tech Hokies, 93-87
A buzzer-beating tip-in took down the Irish in Atlanta before an offensive barn-burner in South Bend was won by the Hokies. What did we learn?
Nate the Great
Another week, another shout-out to Nate Laszewski for another Boromir-esque valiant effort in a lost cause. Nate was Notre Dame’s leading scorer in both games this week, but it was his insane Saturday effort that stood out. Laszewski put up 33 points and hit 6-of-9 from three to go with eight rebounds, a steal and a block.
If there is one positive story for the Irish so far this year, it is seeing this guy continue to fight game in and game out and make the most of each chance he gets in his final season. Unfortunately, his 33 points were matched by Virginia Tech’s Grant Basile on Saturday, which brings us to thing no. 2.
The Vacant Interior
Now that we’ve given big Nate his due, it is time to talk again about how woefully the Irish interior defense, of which he is a part, performed. A Georgia Tech team still in the single digits in wins found ways to get its guards and forwards plenty of looks inside the paint, including second-chance opportunities like the one that ultimately won the day.
At home against Virginia Tech, the aforementioned Grant Basile and Justyn Mutts put on an absolute clinic against their counterparts in Laszewski and Ven-Allen Lubin. Mutts, who had nine assists in addition to his 19 points, often acted as the facilitator for Basile. The pair played off each other to combine for 52 of Virginia Tech’s points, most of which came either in the paint or on jumpers playing off penetration. The Irish simply had no answer on defense for the Hokie big men, exposing yet again the gaping hole in the Irish defense and allowing Virginia Tech to pull away even in a game where the Irish shot well.
What was saddest about these two losses was that they were eminently winnable games that Notre Dame fans accustomed to teams of the past would expect them to have won, marking again the gradual deterioration of Mike Brey’s program. In Atlanta the Irish held a six-point lead late in the second half before going five-minute stretch without a field goal and finishing 1-of-11 in the final seven minutes, affording an inept Georgia Tech offense the chance to stay in the game and close it out in the final seconds.
On Saturday, Virginia Tech made 10 consecutive baskets late in the second half to build a 10-point lead after what had been a back-and-forth game. Meanwhile the Irish offense cooled off, missing their final five three-pointers after opening 13-of-25 and at best managing to trade baskets with the hot-shooting Hokies in the second half. In both games there seemed to be no dynamism, no urgency, and no clutch from the Irish. Those are needed to win in college basketball, and unfortunately in both games this team yet again didn’t have them.