At Long Last, Notre Dame Fighting Irish Men’s Basketball (Hopefully) Gets To Play An Extended Homestand
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At Long Last, Notre Dame (Hopefully) Gets An Extended Homestand

Notre Dame is the lone ACC member in an unenviable club.

The Irish are the only one of the league’s 15 teams that has not played consecutive home conference games this season, a streak that is on the cusp of mercifully ending this week — the final five days of the regular season. They are scheduled to play two opponents they haven’t seen this year, starting with North Carolina State on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, ACCN) and ending with first-place Florida State on Saturday.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball fifth-year senior forward Juwan Durham
Juwan Durham and Notre Dame have not played a home game since Feb. 14. (ACC)

“We’ve missed some key [ACC games],” head coach Mike Brey said Monday. “Mainly Clemson [on Feb. 17], because we were playing well [at the time]. I think we’re the only team [aside from] Wake Forest that has had two three-straight road swings. It has taken its toll, and then you get beat.”

Notre Dame last played at Purcell Pavilion on Feb. 14, defeating Miami 71-61. Clemson’s COVID-19 issues called off the Tigers’ visit to South Bend and set up a 16-day stretch without a home game.

At that point, the Irish were 9-10 and had won six of their last eight games. They set out on the second three-game conference road swing with hopes of moving to within striking distance of the NCAA Tournament. Halfway through the first game, a Feb. 20 trip to Syracuse, the idea felt buyable. The Irish put up 46 points in the opening 20 minutes. Sometime in that second half, though, something jerked the steering wheel and turned the season 180 degrees.

The Irish (9-13, 6-10 ACC) lost that game, 75-67, and blew a 20-point lead. They have not led in the 80 minutes since. They returned home bruised, beaten and way off the tournament radar after a 94-90 loss at last-place Boston College on Saturday. A game that three weeks ago looked like it might pit a surging Notre Dame unit and sinking Wolfpack team without its leading scorer against each other has flipped in narrative.

North Carolina State (12-9, 8-8) has won four straight games, including a 68-61 victory at then-No. 15 Virginia on Feb. 24. It’s likely too little, too late for the NCAA Tournament, but there’s a different vibe that’s detectable even on film.

“They have a spirit,” Brey said. “When you get a couple under your belt, you have a spirit, a belief, a confidence about you. When you haven’t won, you’re searching for that.”

North Carolina State (12-9, 8-8 ACC) at Notre Dame (9-13, 6-10)

When: Wednesday, March 3 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Purcell Pavilion

TV: ACC Network

Radio: Notre Dame basketball radio network

Line: Notre Dame -1.5

Series history: Notre Dame leads 8-7

Last meeting: North Carolina State won 73-68 on Jan. 8, 2020 in Raleigh

KenPom prediction: Notre Dame 76, North Carolina State 73

Other notes

• North Carolina State, despite its recent surge and .500 conference mark, still has a negative adjusted efficiency margin in league games. The Wolfpack are ranked 10th in the conference in offensive efficiency and 11th on defense in their 16 league games.

• This is a meeting of a turnover-prone offense and a defense that rarely forces turnovers. North Carolina State gives the ball away every fifth possession in ACC play (13th), while Notre Dame forces a turnover on just 12.5 percent of defensive possessions (last).

• Irish junior point guard Prentiss Hubb needs 29 points to become the sixth player in Brey’s 21 seasons to reach 1,000 points by the end of his third year. He’s 14 assists away from breaking Jerian Grant’s school-record 125 in conference play in a single season.

• Junior guard Trey Wertz is 12 of 19 (63.2 percent) on two-point attempts in his last five games after hitting only 10 of his first 34 attempts inside the arc (29.4 percent) in his first 12 games. Before starting this recent stretch, he went three straight games without making a two-pointer.

• North Carolina State’s leading scorer Devon Daniels, who averages 16.5 points per game, tore his ACL in late January. Junior wing Jericole Hellems is the top scorer among the team’s healthy players, averaging 13.1 points and 5.3 rebounds. He shoots 46.5 percent overall and 42.5 on threes.

• Wolfpack sophomore forward Manny Bates is fifth nationally in blocks per game, at 3.0.

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