Lubin shines for short-handed Irish but not enough to upend Wake Forest
Remove 20 points of production from a flawed team that has played all season with no margin for gaps of any substance, and the outcome was predictable.
Give Notre Dame credit for at least making it a challenge for Wake Forest — and entertaining for a crowd of almost 10,000 — for 30 minutes or so, before dropping a 66-58 decision in the LJVM Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Saturday night.
The loss was Notre Dame’s seventh straight and dropped its road record to 0-9. The Irish are 10-19 and 2-16, tied for last place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Wake Forest is 18-11 and 10-8.
With guard JJ Starling (11 points a game) a late scratch, reportedly because of a knee issue, and Marcus Hammond (nine points a game) out following the toe injury suffered against Notre Carolina last Wednesday, the Irish played with basically a six-player lineup.
The good news is that both players are expected back before the end of the season.
But without them Saturday, the Irish, ultimately, had too little firepower to keep up with a team ranked 46th in the country in scoring offense (78 points a game), though Wake was doing a little adjusting itself having lost 13-point scorer Damari Monsanto to a season-ending knee injury in last Wednesday’s loss to North Carolina State.
Against the Irish in South Bend on Feb. 4, Monsanto went off for 28 points (8-for-13 on 3s) in the Demon Deacons’ 81-64 win.
In that game, the Irish trailed by only one at halftime.
In Saturday’s game, they trailed by three.
A short turnaround jumper by Notre Dame’s brightest performer, 6-foot-8 freshman Ven-Allen Lubin, got the Irish to within one at 41-40 at the 18:29 mark of the second half. It was six minutes later before they scored again to make it 48-42.
The lengthy gap included nine straight misses and wouldn’t have sounded the end were it not for another three-minute drought after that. It took a Lubin layup at that point to make it 54-44.
“We’re an assist team,” said associate head coach Anthony Solomon, who served as team spokesman for postgame comments provided by Fighting Irish Media. “When we have more turnovers (11) than assists (9), it’s probably not going to be a very good night for us.
“We’re at our best when we can move the ball, make great decisions and create rhythm, catch-shoot opportunities.”
Most of the fun for the Irish came very early when they went 4-for-4 on 3-pointers to start the game.
It crumbled from there to 1-for-16 — 5-for-20 for the day — against a team that doesn’t defend particularly well, ranking 292nd in scoring defense (74.5) and 252nd in 3-point percentage defense (34.8).
It was hard to figure why many of those open shots didn’t fall, but Wake’s pressure and Notre Dame’s fatigue were possible factors. Five Irish players played at least 33 minutes — Dane Goodwin never left the court.
“The second half was a challenge for us and credit Wake for a lot of that,” Solomon said.
“Forty minutes is what it’s all about.”
It was another tortuous day on the boards. After surrendering 23 offensive rebounds to North Carolina on Wednesday night, Notre Dame gave up 15 to Wake. The Irish had only five.
Wake averages nine 3-point makes a game and finished with 12 in 33 attempts (36%). It shot a subpar 36% from the field overall, well below its 47% average, which says something about the Irish defensive performance.
But on a day when they were so short-handed they needed more from their biggest scorers and didn’t get it — not even close.
Leading scorer Nate Laszewski (14.3 average) had just eight on 2-for-7 shooting night, and Dane Goodwin (11.9 average) had only five and was 2-for-9.
Cormac Ryan and Trey Wertz had 12 points each, but went a combined 7-for-22 from the field, including a combined 3-for-12 from the 3-point line.
Lubin had the breakout game, finishing with a career-high 19 points on 9-for-13 shooting, and grabbing a team-high eight rebounds.
Discussion on the ACC Network centered on whether Lubin will return or transfer along with the lofty attention he’d receive if he reopened his recruiting.
Solomon didn’t address that, but did talk about Lubin’s development.
“You know, the different injuries he's had throughout the season have slowed his progress in terms of consistency,” Solomon said of Lubin, who came into the game averaging six points and 4.4 rebounds.
“But tonight he had a really good face-up drive from 17 feet. There's more versatility to his game, and I think you know, over time, he's going to be a really good college basketball player. Really proud of what he did tonight, his activity level and against a very talented front line. Really happy to see his production tonight.”
The Irish will need more of it when it hosts ACC leader Pittsburgh Wednesday night at 7 (EST) in Mike Brey’s final home game as head coach of the Irish.
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