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HOOPS Preview: Notre Dame at Miami

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NOTRE DAME (12-10, 2-7 ACC) AT MIAMI (9-12, 1-8 ACC)

Where: Watsco Center (Coral Gables, Fla.)

Rankings: Both teams are unranked.

TV/Time: ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET.

Series Facts: The all-time series is tied 11-11.

Last Meeting: Miami won in Coral Gables 77-74 on Feb. 19, 2018.

Notre Dame picked up a much-needed win this past Saturday with a road victory over Boston College.

The Irish are back on the road tomorrow night set to take on a Miami Hurricanes team that has lost eight of nine.

Blue & Gold Illustrated previews both teams before they meet tomorrow evening.

NOTRE DAME OVERVIEW

If Notre Dame fans were unable to watch the game and simply looked at the box score, there were probably a ton of shocked faces when reading guard Nik Djogo led the Irish with 21 points in a 79-73 win over Boston College.

The junior scored 11 points in the first seven minutes and finished 7-of-10 from the floor and 4-of-6 behind the arc. It was quite the performance for Djogo, who averaged 1.9 points entering the game.

Djogo has shown some flashes with his athleticism and his three-point stroke, but he had not put it together in that type of capacity until this past Saturday. His previous high was 12 points against North Carolina last season.

Djogo’s strong played carried over to most of the starting lineup with guard TJ Gibbs (19), guard Prentiss Hubb (16) and forward John Mooney (15) all scored over 12 points on at least 50 percent shooting. Mooney also recorded his eighth-straight double-double grabbing 13 rebounds. Wing DJ Harvey struggled a bit with just three points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Notre Dame got just five bench points from the quartet of guard Dane Goodwin and forwards Chris Doherty, Juwan Durham and Nate Laszewski. However, the group took just five shots total with Goodwin putting up four on his own for all five points.

The Irish shot over 50 percent from the field in both halves and finished and hit exactly 50 percent of their three-point attempts (10-of-20). Many were waiting for the dreaded cold streak in the second half that has ultimately derailed Notre Dame in closes losses this year. There was about a four-minute stretch the Irish were held scoreless, but the team’s defense stepped up and forced the same type of struggle for the Eagles.

It was a much-needed performance for Notre Dame following a five-game losing streak and seven losses in their last eight contests. For a young group, any win is a major confidence boost and doing so on the road only adds to that.

Now the question will be what does Notre Dame moving forward? Expecting the Irish to continue shooting over 50 percent is not realistic. But, was Saturday a sign that the team will begin turn the corner in terms of more consistency offensively? Or was it a one-off?

Mike Brey and company will get a chance to prove it is closer to the former with another road matchup.

MIAMI OVERVIEW

Following a 5-0 start to the 2018-2019 campaign, the wheels have come off for the Miami Hurricanes.

Jim Larranaga’s group is currently suffering through a 4-12 stretch since their strong beginning to the new year, including a 1-8 mark in ACC play.

According to KenPom’s team rankings before any Feb. 5 games, the Hurricanes had just one win over a program ranked inside the top 150: Fresno State (64th) on a neutral court.

Much like Notre Dame, the Hurricanes have suffered through some roster attrition that has hurt the depth. Forward Dewan Hernandez, who averaged 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds in 2017-2018, was ruled ineligible by the NCAA after accepting benefits from agent and will now enter the NBA Draft. Hernandez was being held out by the university due to the investigation, which decided to suspend him for the rest of this season and 40 percent of next year.

Eight games into the year Miami lost forward Deng Gak, who was playing 14.6 minutes per contest, leaving the Hurricanes one more player short than their expected rotation.

Former Notre Dame guard target Chris Lykes returned for his sophomore and has been Miami’s leading scorer through 21 games this season at 16.7 points to go with 3.4 assists and 1.5 steals.

Along with Lykes, guard Anthony Lawrence (11.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG) and big man Ebuka Izundu (11.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG) have started every contest for the Hurricanes this year. Guards Zach Johnson (13.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG) and Dejan Vasiljevic (10.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG) have started double-digit games this year and the most recent two, but forward Sam Waardenburg (5.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG) and guard Anthony Mack (3.1 PPG) each have earned a start in at least one of the past five games.

Even with the losses, Miami has been respectable at times offensively this year averaging 73.1 points on 44.5 percent shooting overall and 34.6 percent behind the arc. Those totals put the Hurricanes 77th in adjusted offensive efficiency.

Defensively has been a little bit of a different story. The Hurricanes are allowing opponents to score 71.2 points per game on 45.1 percent shooting and 34.3 percent on three-point attempts, which has equated to a 130th ranking in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Miami has lost four of its last five games at home, so will that provide any advantage in this matchup?

GAME OUTLOOK

A win over Boston College could be the spark the Irish needed to get back on track, especially after shooting over 50 percent for the contest.

Can Notre Dame carry over that success to a road game in Miami? The Hurricanes are in the exact same situation as the Irish were going into Chestnut Hill desperately needing a victory.

Brey’s group got quite the boost from Djogo against the Eagles. Can he continue his momentum? Notre Dame will have to earn a victory even with the Hurricanes struggling.

Prediction

Notre Dame 74, Miami 71

The Irish get their second-straight league win on the road and first over an opponent not named Boston College.

I think Notre Dame needed to see a few shots go in early to get confident and play with conviction. Sure, the same could be said about the Hurricanes for this one. But, Miami ranks middle of the pack nationally in three-point percentage allowed and opponents shoot over 50 percent (52.2) on two-point attempts, which is 245th.

The Irish will have opportunities in this one to score, and I think they take advantage just enough to get the win.

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Talk about it inside Rockne’s Roundtable

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