In Hosting Wake Forest, Notre Dame Has Great Chance To Keep Ascending
In trying to wash away a sour defeat Jan. 27 against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey gazed through a zoomed-out lens picture to try and re-inject some good vibes.
Time to move on. Time to play 11 more games. And to him, time to still build on two prior wins that came before the loss to the Hokies.
“We looked at it as, ‘We won two of three, let’s win three of four,’” Brey said after Notre Dame’s 84-58 win at Pitt on Saturday. “And we have a chance to win four of five. I actually said to ‘flush’ Virginia Tech, that we have a chance to win two in a row.
“You’re never supposed to look ahead, but let’s win two in a row. We’re trying anything.”
The Irish passed the more difficult half without much trouble in their disposal of the Panthers, their first win this year over a team currently above them in the ACC standings. In delivering their most complete game of the year, they added some intrigue and expanded possibilities into a previously vanilla season. There’s an expectation more games like Saturday’s will follow.
Up next is a home game against Wake Forest (5 p.m., ACCN), a rebuilding team under first-year coach Steve Forbes. KenPom projects the Demon Deacons (5-7, 2-7 ACC) to lose their remaining nine ACC games. Notre Dame is favored by 4.5 points.
That’s underselling desperate energy and some recent inspired play, though. Wake Forest’s losses are all against top-75 KenPom teams, and all but one against top-50 units. It’s also 2-1 in its last three with wins over Pitt and Miami, with 28 combined three-pointers in the two games.
“I think they feel really good about themselves, playing well coming off a win,” Brey said.
Center Olivier Sarr, who gave Notre Dame fits in an 84-73 Deacons win last season, is no longer around. In turn and with Forbes’ arrival, their style of play has shifted to a perimeter-heavy, guard reliant attack. In ACC play, no one is taking a higher percentage of their shots from three-point range than Wake Forest’s 46.7. Any time the volume is there, large quantities of makes are a threat.
“They can really shoot it,” Brey said. “They made 13 threes the other day. That’s what scares me the most, their ability to really get going from the three-point line.”
Wake Forest (5-7, 2-7 ACC) at Notre Dame (6-9, 3-6)
When: Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 5 p.m. ET
Where: Purcell Pavilion
TV: ACC Network
Radio: Notre Dame Radio Network
Line: Notre Dame -4.5
KenPom prediction: Notre Dame 75, Wake Forest 69
Series history: Notre Dame leads 6-5
Last meeting: Wake Forest won 84-73 on Feb. 29, 2020 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
• Wake Forest’s leading scorer is point guard Daivien Williamson, who followed Forbes from East Tennessee State. He’s averaging 13.8 points, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 49.2 percent overall and 36.2 percent on three-pointers.
• In his last four games, Notre Dame point guard Prentiss Hubb is 16-for-29 on threes and averaging 7.1 assists.
• Notre Dame forward Nate Laszewski is averaging 9.9 rebounds in his last three games.
• Wake Forest’s best shooters are sophomore forward Ismael Massoud (24-for-58, 41.4 percent), and senior guard Jonah Antonio (20-for-52, 38.5 percent).
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