Observations: Notre Dame Never Trails In Win Over No. 11 Florida State
The skid is over. And Notre Dame is up off the mat.
The Irish defeated No. 11 Florida State 83-73 Saturday afternoon, their first win over a ranked opponent since November 2017 and in 28 tries. They finish the regular season 10-14 and 7-11 in the ACC. This one will age well. The Seminoles (15-5, 11-4 ACC) can still win the league title.
Here are some observations from the game.
• What a contrast. Not 72 hours after a couple “Fire Brey” chants bounced around Purcell Pavilion, this one ended in a more pronounced “We Love Brey” chorus.
• Stopping bad momentum cold isn’t easy. Especially not in this setting, with the ACC’s first-place team coming to town. None of the uptightness or bad vibes showed up on Saturday.
• Defenses that switch everything and try and deny passes have given Notre Dame problems all year. Until today. the Irish were calm against an athletic group that guards aggressively well past the three-point line and trusts its players to win man-to-man reps. Notre Dame, in turn, beat it by back-cutting for easy layups, got it in rotation by winning some individual matchups and pushed the ball in transition.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton adjusted by down-shifting to a smaller lineup without a center, using some full-court pressure and playing some more help. Notre Dame had some problems with it, mainly because of projected NBA Draft lottery pick Scottie Barnes’ length, but regrouped after a turnover on its own baseline and a 10-second violation. Head coach Mike Brey’s own adjustment was to go smaller and not play forwards Juwan Durham and Nate Laszewski together.
• Notre Dame had 12 assists and 15 turnovers. Negative assist-turnover ratios were present when the Irish had blown leads before, but this instance was more indicative of their guards creating offense themselves.
Prentiss Hubb and Cormac Ryan were aggressive in taking the ball to the basket, and each of them had layups against well-regarded defender M.J. Walker when Florida State sliced its deficit to 70-64 with 5:13 left. Hubb had another when to make the score 76-70 with 68 seconds to go. He ended with 22 points. He, Ryan and guard Dane Goodwin combined for 48.
• In each of Florida State’s three prior ACC losses, it turned the ball over on at least 22 percent of possessions. The Seminoles entered 185th nationally in turnover rate, the one fault of a top-10 offense. Notre Dame, though, entered last in the country in forcing turnovers, and 182nd in defensive efficiency, making it an unlikely opponent to fluster Florida State.
But the Irish were jumping to the ball, sealing driving lanes and closing out. They were disruptive enough to force turnovers on 18.4 percent of possessions, including 23.7 in the first half. Their season average coming in was 12.5 percent.
• Florida State’s pace and the turnovers gave Notre Dame a lot of transition chances and “early offense” buckets. Notre Dame was happy to play at that pace on both ends. It had 11 fast-break points in the first half and 19 overall.
• Everything that was missing since the first half at Syracuse two weeks ago was on display in this one: urgency, intensity, effort, buy-in. Considering the opponent, it’s not a stretch to say the opening 20 minutes were the Irish’s best defensive half of the season.
Nowhere was that more evident than a couple defensive possessions on Florida State’s 6-8, 260-pound RaiQuan Gray, who barrels downhill like a runaway train. On one baseline drive, though, guard Trey Wertz slid in his path and forced him to pull up for a floater, which he missed. Laszewski drew two charges on him.
Elsewhere, Ryan had a possession late in the first half where he closed out hard on Walker, FSU’s leading scorer, and forced him into a one-dribble pull-up that missed. It was right after Ryan turned the ball over.
• Notre Dame didn’t have much of an answer for keeping Gray and Barnes out of the lane (32 combined points), but it did prevent the Seminoles from beating them with three-pointers. They were 6 of 24 from deep, and that included a 2-of-10 game from Walker. Junior guard Anthony Polite, a 45.6 percent shooter who takes about four threes per game, was just 1 of 3. That make didn’t come until 2:34 remained.
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