On Sunday, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey called his team the “most unpanicked program in the history of college basketball.”
Two straight losses entering Monday night’s home clash with No. 17 Duke doesn’t have Brey’s team rattled, the 17th-year coach said.
“We never panic,” Brey said prior to the team’s practice at Purcell Pavilion. “…We just kind of methodically keep going through it.”
After starting Atlantic Coast Conference play with victories in five straight games, the 14th-ranked Irish are losers of three of their last four games. After incremental jumps in the Associated Press poll in recent weeks, Notre Dame will likely fall back into the 20’s after losses to No. 12 Virginia and unranked Georgia Tech in the past week.
Due to North Carolina’s loss to Miami and Florida State’s loss to Syracuse, Notre Dame remains just one game out of first-place in the 15-team ACC. The Irish can make a serious move this week as they host Duke and travel to No. 9 North Carolina on Saturday.
“Just knowing how together we are as a unit, the things that we’ve been through in the past, we’re fine,” senior wing V.J. Beachem said. “Just seeing what’s going on in the league, everybody is getting hit in the mouth, everybody’s losing on the road, at home, you never know what’s going to happen on any given night. Getting a win Monday and taking it day-by-day is important.”
Notre Dame’s recent slump doesn’t make Monday night’s game against the Blue Devils a must-win, Brey said.
“I talked to our guys last night and said, ‘We finished the first half of the league 6-3 and we’re kind of 0-0 again,’” Brey said. “I told them, ‘Let’s clean the slate and look at these back nine.’ 3-2 on the road, we’ve put ourselves in a great position.
“I don’t think we’re in (a must-win situation), and I’m hoping because we got out of the gate with five league wins and we have six here in late January, that maybe nothing is a must-win situation in the regular season, but we’ll see.”
Even with just one day between Saturday’s trip to Atlanta and Monday’s game against Duke, Brey said the Irish were set to “compete a little bit” in Sunday’s practice. The coach said he wanted some of Notre Dame’s players to get back into an offensive rhythm after scoring just 54 and 60 points, respectively, in the previous two games.
Unlike football, Brey said, the quick turnaround is an opportunity to “get back on the horse.”
“Coming back out here on Monday night after we’re facing a little adversity, two losses, we’ll see what we’re made of,” senior guard Steve Vasturia said. “It’s a long season, and you can’t really dwell on losses that much, just like you can’t dwell on the wins.”