March 5, 2016
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) With his team mired in an offensive slump, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey decided to push them.
Coming off a season-low 50 points in a home loss to No. 7 Miami on Wednesday, Brey used a 20-second shot clock in practice to speed up the tempo, and got the results he was looking for.
Zach Auguste had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and the Irish went 12 of 24 from 3-point range Saturday to blitz North Carolina State 89-75.
”Tempo was the key, playing faster in practice,” Brey said. ”It had us in attack mode the whole time.”
Freshman Matt Ryan scored a career-high 17 points, all in the first half, and Demetrius Jackson snapped out of a scoring funk to finish with 14 points, six rebounds and seven assists for the Irish (20-10, 11-7 ACC).
”I think we’ve kind of found a rhythm here at a very key time,” Brey said. ”We’re playing fast, baby, here we go.”
The regular season-ending victory snapped a two-game losing streak for Notre Dame, which still needs a No. 17 Duke loss against No. 8 North Carolina on Saturday to finish fourth in the ACC and earn a double bye in next week’s league tournament.
”I will have my Dean Smith basketball camp shirt on watching at home,” Brey joked of rooting for the Tar Heels.
Anthony ”Cat” Barber led NC State (15-16, 5-13) with 29 points and became just the second ACC player besides Georgia Tech’s Kenny Anderson (1990-91) to average 23 points, four rebounds and four assists per game.
Abdul-Malik Abu finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Wolfpack.
Notre Dame led by one when freshman Rex Pflueger hit consecutive 3s to spark a 12-2 spurt that opened up a 12-point advantage with 8:48 to play.
”Notre Dame in the second half, they had an offensive burst that was the difference in the game,” said NC State coach Mark Gottfried.
Jackson, Notre Dame’s leading scorer at 15.9 points per game, did not score in the first half after going 0 of 6 from the field, but he heated up with nine minutes left.
Jackson scored 10 straight Irish points and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, the second of which pushed ND’s lead to 15 with seven minutes to go.
”I just kept shooting it,” Jackson said. ”I kept getting good looks.”
Coming off a season-low 34 percent shooting in Wednesday’s loss to Miami, Notre Dame opened the game by hitting just one of its first nine shots. That’s when Ryan came off the bench to ignite the Irish.
Ryan knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight quick points to fuel a 10-0 run to put the Irish up 20-13 midway through the first half.
”That was coming, that was bubbling the whole time,” Brey said of Ryan’s breakout.
Barber responded with three straight buckets, part of an 8-0 NC State run. The Wolfpack led by six after Caleb Martin’s 3-pointer late in the first half, but Ryan again came up big, knocking down a 3 and adding three free throws as the Irish ended the first half on a 14-2 burst to take a 45-39 lead.
UPDATE: With North Carolina’s victory over Duke, Notre Dame earns the #4 seed in the ACC Championship and a double-bye in the tournament. The Irish will play their first game on Thursday, March 10 at 2:00 p.m. ET.
NC State: The Wolfpack were already locked into the 12th seed in next week’s ACC tournament prior to Saturday’s game at Notre Dame… Barber went 4 of 5 from the free-throw line to break the program record for free throws made in a season… Junior BeeJay Anya set the program record for career blocked shots (208) against Boston College on March 2.
Notre Dame: The Irish lead the nation averaging just 9.1 turnovers per game… They also average 76 points per game, but totaled 56 and 50 in losses to Florida State and Miami, the first time this season ND has lost consecutive games.
Jackson, a junior, was shaking hands and hugging some of the people who work at the scorer’s table and others who work at the arena after the game, but said it had nothing to do with the fact it might have been his last game at Notre Dame. He said he was just thanking them for their work this season. But he conceded that the thought it might have been his final game at Notre Dame did cross his mind.
”A little bit. I thought about it,” he said.
NC State faces Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC tournament on Tuesday.