InsideNDSports - Notre Dame's seniors drain 3s in final victory of regular season
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Notre Dame's seniors drain 3s in final victory of regular season

Notre Dame forward Nate Laszewski (14) hits a 3 over Pittsburgh forward Mouhamadou Gueye (15) in a 78-54 Irish victory.
Notre Dame forward Nate Laszewski (14) hits a 3 over Pittsburgh forward Mouhamadou Gueye (15) in a 78-54 Irish victory. (Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)

Notre Dame's seniors celebrated themselves by putting a 3-point barrage on Pittsburgh in Purcell Pavilion.

After the Irish recognized their seven seniors prior to the opening tip Saturday, Notre Dame's seniors combined for 12 of the team's 14 3-pointers in an easy 78-54 victory on Senior Day.

The Irish shot 58.3% on their 24 3-point attempts. Five seniors contributed to the 3-point attack: Cormac Ryan (5-of-7), Nate Laszewski (3-3), Dane Goodwin (2-5), Trey Wertz (1-1) and Prentiss Hubb (1-3).

Graduate senior Paul Atkinson Jr. didn't attempt a 3 while he spent most his time in the paint with 10 points of his own. Senior Robby Carmody was dressed in uniform for the game, but he's yet to be cleared for full basketball activities following a series of injuries throughout his career.

Laszewski and Ryan led the scoring for Notre Dame (22-9, 15-5 ACC) as it clinched the No. 2 seed in next week's ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y. Laszewski scored 17 points with nine rebounds as he returned to the starting lineup for the first time in since Feb. 5.

Head coach Mike Brey opted to start all seniors against Pittsburgh (11-20, 6-14) and end freshman Blake Wesley's 24-game starting streak.

Ryan, who replaced Laszewski in the starting lineup for the previous seven games, hit his first five 3s of the game before missing a pair in the second half. All 15 of his points came from 3s.

Wesley still scored 11 points in his 26 points coming off the bench for the first time since Nov. 29. Goodwin hit double figures as well with eight of his 10 points coming in the second half.

Unselfish play allowed the Irish to shoot so well. Notre Dame registered assists on 21 of its 27 made field goals (77.8%). The Irish entered the game with assists on 53.7% of their made field goals throughout the season.

"It's just some guys that have played a while together that really know how to play," Brey said, "and have really free minds of sharing the ball because it's worked for them. That's been very gratifying to see."

Notre Dame led 31-21 at halftime, though the lead should have been larger if not for seven turnovers in the first half. The Irish quickly doubled that lead in barely three minutes to start the second half. A pair of Ryan 3s, a pair of Atkinson baskets in the paint and a Hubb layup gave the Irish a 12-2 run after the break.

Pittsburgh struggled shooting the entire game. The Panthers only hit one 3-pointer in the first half and finished 3-of-26 (11.5%) from behind the arc. Pittsburgh protected the ball well with only five turnovers, but that wasn't nearly enough to overcome shooting just 35.9% (23-of-64) from the field.

Forwards Mouhamadou Gueye and John Hughley tied for a team-high 13 points for the Panthers.

Notre Dame will start its ACC Tournament run Thursday at 7 p.m. EST in the quarterfinal round as a the recipient of a double-bye with the No. 2 seed. Notre Dame's opponent will be determined Wednesday night in a matchup of 7-seed Virginia Tech against the winner of 10-seed Clemson and 15-seed NC State.

"There's a real calm about this group," Brey said. "It's really cool to see, because they deserve it. They've been coachable. They've been battle-tested.

"I've never been more excited about taking a team into the postseason, and I've had some pretty good teams."

After Notre Dame lost at Florida State on Thursday, Brey reminded his team that it has recovered from losses with winning streaks of six, five and four games at various times throughout the season.

"How about we do a 10?" Brey suggested to his team.

That meant a win Saturday against Pittsburgh, three wins for the ACC Tournament title and six wins in the NCAA Tournament for a national championship.

Nine more wins is a long way to go. But if you're going to dream, you might as well dream big.

"They believe. They have ownership of themselves. They believe they can play 'til April, and they're right. They're right. They can play for a long time. They really can."

BOX SCORE

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