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HOOPS Preview: Notre Dame vs. NC State

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BGI/Corey Bodden

NOTRE DAME (11-6, 1-3 ACC) VS. NC STATE (14-3, 2-2 ACC)

Where: Purcell Pavilion (South Bend, Ind.)

Rankings: NC State is ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press poll.

TV/Time: Raycom Sports, 2 p.m. ET.

Series Facts: The Irish lead the all-time series 8-5.

Last Meeting: NC State won 76-58 on Feb. 3, 2018 in Raleigh.

After falling just short of a top-25 road win against North Carolina, Notre Dame returns back to South Bend with another opportunity to pick up a top-25 win hosting the No. 17 NC State Wolfpack.

Both programs are coming off road losses in their last time out with NC State falling to Wake Forest in Winston Salem.

Blue & Gold Illustrated previews the Irish and Wolfpack before they meet this afternoon.

NOTRE DAME OVERVIEW

The Irish had a 36-33 lead on then-No. 13 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, but a cold second half offensively ultimately doomed Notre Dame in a 75-69 loss.

Freshman point guard Prentiss Hubb led the team with a career-high 18 points to go with six assists, while junior forward John Mooney added a career-high 19 rebounds and four blocks to go with 16 points. Sophomore wing DJ Harvey had 15 points to round out the top scorers on 5-of-9 shooting.

The problem, however, the trio were the lone scorers over six points. Junior forward Juwan Durham had six points in his first game after missing one contest with an ankle injury. Junior guard TJ Gibbs struggled hitting just one of his nine shots going for just five points, though he did keep the ball moving with five assists.

Freshmen Nate Laszewski and Dane Goodwin combined to go 2-of-9 in a tough environment while junior wing Nik Djogo hit one of his two three-point attempts.

It was a solid first half for the Irish hitting six triples on 13 attempts, but 10 turnovers probably cost them a little bit bigger of a lead on the road.

After taking a 58-57 lead with 6:51 remaining, the Irish made just one of their next nine shots, including miss six straight while the Tar Heels built an eventual 70-61 advantage. Notre Dame hit four of their final six attempts to help the overall percentage a bit, but that crucial stretch derailed the team’s chances of pulling off the upset.

Offensive inconsistency has been a major problem for Notre Dame this year and has cost the team in its losses this season.

That has to change if the Irish want to pick up key wins to build its resume and potentially make the NCAA Tournament. The flashes have been there. Like the first half against the Tar Heels and part of the second. It’s just about putting it together for a full game like the Irish did in Indianapolis in a win over Purdue.

Life won’t get any easier and Mike Brey and company need someone to step up offensively on a consistent basis outside of Mooney.

NC STATE OVERVIEW

After a 12-1 start to the season, NC State has hit a little bit of a road bump to begin ACC play with a 2-2 record through four games, including an upset loss to Wake Forest on the road. But, the team sits at 14-3 on the year and is up to No. 17 in the AP poll.

It was a successful year one last season for Kevin Keatts leading the Wolfpack to a 21-12 after taking a program that finished three games under .500 combined the previous two seasons before his arrival.

This season it has been the offense leading the way for NC State with the Wolfpack averaging 87.3 points per game, which puts the team sixth in the country. Keatts’ group has done this by being efficient on that end of the court shooting 49.8 percent from the field (14th nationally) and 38.2 percent behind the arc (tied for 33rd).

Much like the Irish faced in their last time out against North Carolina, NC State likes to push the tempo with the 18th fastest average possession length (15.2 seconds), per KenPom.com.

Senior guard Torin Dorn has been the top option for the Wolfpack with a team-high 14.4 points and 7.0 rebounds through 17 games. Guards CJ Bryce (11.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG) and Braxton Beverly (9.4 PPG, 2.9 APG) should join Dorn in the starting lineup this afternoon as will senior forward Wyatt Walker (6.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG).

NC State could be without starting point guard Markell Johnson (11.6 PPG, 4.1 APG) for the second-straight game after suffering a back injury on Jan. 12 in a win over Pittsburgh. If he is ready to play, Johnson could be with the starting unit. Or guard Devon Daniels (10.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG) would likely slide into the group like he did against Wake Forest.

Keatts isn’t afraid to go deep into the rotation with nine players averaging over 15 minutes per game and 10 with at least 11 minutes. Forward DJ Funderburk has been the top option for Keatts inside off the bench at 9.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest.

Freshman forward Jericole Hellems (7.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG) has been solid in his first year in Raleigh while guards Eric Lockett (6.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG) and Blake Harris (3.9 PPG) provide solid depth as well.

Either way, the Wolfpack will try to wear down Notre Dame with their depth.

GAME OUTLOOK

Like Brey mentioned on Thursday during his press conference, picking up a home win against a top 25 opponent would be huge for the Irish and their quest to get back to .500 in ACC play.

Notre Dame will likely try to slow the pace much like Tuesday night against the Tar Heels. Connecting from deep will be another key for the Irish to pull off the upset and the team was one consistent shooter short against North Carolina. Will that change at home?

Depth will likely play a role in this one with the Wolfpack potentially playing nine or 10 guys and spreading the minutes, while the Irish will go with eight though Djogo will probably see just a few minutes.

Prediction

NC State 79, Notre Dame 75

If Notre Dame can put together two halves like the first half against the Tar Heels, then the chances for an upset could be high. The Irish hit six three-pointers and forced nine turnovers. That’s the recipe.

In the end, much like the North Carolina game turned out, depth and offensive consistency hurt the Irish in this one. NC State pulls out a tough one in South Bend.

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Talk about it inside Rockne’s Roundtable

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