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HOOPS Preview: Notre Dame Vs. Wake Forest

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NOTRE DAME (13-12, 3-9 ACC) VS. WAKE FOREST (9-15, 2-10 ACC)

Where: Purcell Pavilion (Notre Dame, Ind.)

Rankings: Both teams are unranked.

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

Series Facts: Notre Dame leads the all-time series 5-3.

Last Meeting: The Irish defeated the Demon Deacons 76-71 on Feb. 24, 2018 in Winston-Salem.

Notre Dame and Wake Forest will square off tonight in South Bend with programs in desperate need for another ACC win.

The Irish are coming off a close loss to then-No. 4 Virginia on the road, and the Demon Deacons have just one victory in their last eight contests.

Blue & Gold Illustrated takes a look at both programs before they meet this evening.

NOTRE DAME OVERVIEW

Moral victories aren’t part of the vocabulary for many when it comes to those in sports or various competitions.

But, Notre Dame certainly can take some positive from Saturday’s 60-54 loss to No. 4 Virginia on the road.

The one key the Irish had for the game was simply compete for the entirety of the game no matter how it was unfolding. Mission accomplished.

With the effort and desire to prove the blowout in South Bend was not a reflection of the team’s abilities, Notre Dame came close to pulling off what would have been one of the bigger upsets in the league this season.

The Irish were within double-digits for the vast majority of the game and was within one possession in the final minute before Virginia hit clutch free throws to clinch the win.

Guard TJ Gibbs carried over his second-half performance against Georgia Tech to this past Saturday was a team-high 17 points, including the first 10 for the Irish. Forward John Mooney recorded his 16th double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds to complement Gibbs.

Wing DJ Harvey hit 4-of-8 from the field for 10 points to serve as the final double-digit scorer for Mike Brey. Forward Nate Laszewski added nine off the bench, while guard Prentiss had seven points. Wing Nik Djogo, guard Dane Goodwin and forward Juwan Durham were all held scoreless on five total attempts.

Notre Dame didn’t light it up from the field making just 34.5 percent of their attempts, but the team’s defensive efforts helped hold Virginia to 36.5 percent.

Saturday was a god learning experience for the Irish and should lead to some positive momentum to close out the month.

WAKE FOREST OVERVIEW

Expectations for Wake Forest entering the 2018-2019 season were not high after the Demon Deacons lost three of their top four scorers off a team that won just 11 games a year ago.

Danny Manning’s group has struggled this campaign with a 9-15 mark entering tonight’s matchup against the Irish.

Wake Forest entered ACC play with a 7-5 record, including four losses to mid-major programs (Saint Joseph’s, Houston Baptist, Richmond and Gardner Webb).

Life hasn’t been easier with the Demon Deacons sitting at 2-10 and 14th place.

Offense has been a key reason for the team’s struggles. Wake Forest ranks dead last among Power Five programs in field goal percentage (39.6 percent) and three-point shooting (29.9 percent), which has led to the team averaging just 68.4 points per game. Both shooting percentages rank at least 338th or worse nationally.

According to KenPom.com, Wake Forest is 338th in effective field goal percentage (44.9 percent) as well.

It hasn’t been much better defensively with opponents hitting 46.7 percent of their field goal attempts and 34.5 percent behind the arc.

Guard Brandon Childress leads the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game after being the top scorer that returned. He also averages 3.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals for Manning.

Former five-star prospect Jaylen Hoard has made an impact in year one in Winston-Salem averaging 13.9 points and 8.2 rebounds. Guard Chaundee Brown rounds out the double-digit scorers at 11.2 points.

Then there is a little bit of a drop off offensively with freshman guard Sharone Wright Jr. ranking fourth on the team at 6.9 points. Sophomore big man Olivier Sarr should round out the starting lineup tonight (5.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG).

Freshman forward Isaiah Mucius has earned a handful of starts this year and is averaging 6.6 points and 3.7 rebounds. Guards Torry Johnson (5.6 PPG) and Michael Wynn (2.3 PPG) round out the perimeter depth, while forward Ikenna Smart (2.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG) will provide some minutes down low.

Can the Demon Deacons pull off their first road ACC win of the year?

GAME OUTLOOK

This one could be ugly from an offensive perspective.

Neither team is lighting the world on fire this year, but Notre Dame being at home is probably the best advantage for the Irish to potentially put up a good night against a poor Wake Forest defensive team. The Irish rank just over 100 spots higher in adjusted defensive efficiency (117th).

Hoard could be a tough matchup early on for Harvey if the Demon Deacons start Sarr down low to matchup with Mooney.

Containing Childress will be a top priority for the Irish as will Mooney on the flip side for Manning.

Wake Forest also doesn’t push the tempo, so this could be a low scoring matchup.

Prediction

Notre Dame 74, Wake Forest 63

Again, the Irish and Demon Deacons aren’t particularly stellar offensive teams, but Notre Dame is better. Add that on top of the contest being in South Bend should add up to a victory for Brey’s group.

While it was a loss, Notre Dame gained some positive momentum with their effort and will aim to compete for a full 40 minutes once again.

Notre Dame hits enough shots to pick up a fourth league victory.

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Talk about it inside Rockne’s Roundtable

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