ACC Basketball

The Irish Run Over the Demon Deacons

SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ

You know, this is the kind of game Virginia’s Tony Bennett sits down to watch and just cringes.

Coming off a week without basketball and playing their first home game since February 4, Notre Dame pulled away from Wake Forest in the second half to earn a 88-75 win.

For the first 20 minutes, this game was pretty fun to watch. Both teams liked to run and that they did, as you could have set the shot clock to 15 seconds and still no one would have earned a shot clock violation.

However, thanks that long break, the Fighting Irish came out cold, missing 11 of their first 12 shots, yet they continued to attack the rim. The ball wasn’t going in, but they were getting to the foul line plenty, as 13 of their first 30 points were scored on the charity stripe. Zach Auguste led the way early, hitting five of six. Eventually, Jerian Grant began to find his open shooters and they began to hit their three pointers (three in a row) to turn a four-point deficit into a six-point lead.

Yet, the Demon Deacons kept pace. After demanding the ball like Mike Tyson in heat, Devin Thomas dominated inside. With Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste in early foul trouble, Thomas would go on to score 15 in the first half, at one point scoring nine straight to end the half, keeping Wake Forest within two.

However, in the second half, the Demon Deacons got sloppy, turning the ball over on two of their first three possessions and the Irish went on an 8-0 run to open up a 10-point lead. However, Devin Thomas, scored five straight and again forced Auguste to the bench with a third foul.

Down five, the Notre Dame run was officially over and their only big man was on the bench, Wake’s task was easy…get the ball inside to Thomas. However, after one missed shot, Wake’s best player went to the bench and this was not when his wrist got injured. It made no sense. The Irish were stuck playing small ball. There was no one on the court who could guard Thomas. He had already dominated this lineup in the first half, but instead of sucking it up, finding a second wind and staying on the court, Thomas got a breathier.

With Jerian Grant getting to the paint with with ease and with no true big man to protect the rim, Notre Dame would go on a 16-4 run before Thomas got his butt back in the game and got his hands on the ball (a turnover). A few minutes later, he was back sitting, holding his wrist.

Now I’m not going to doubt whether this young man was hurt, but if your star player has a hurt wrist, shouldn’t a team doctor be hovering over him? At least get the man some ice.

With Thomas planted on the pine, Wake Forest was never able to make a run, as Notre Dame became unstoppable. Eventually Thomas did come back in with about five minutes to play, but it was over by then. When asked later about his sudden recovery, he had this to say…

It was a sad way to end the night because the junior big man was having a career night. He finished with 26 points (10-17 shooting) and 11 rebounds, despite missing most of the second half. The rest of the team went 19-46 from the floor, Konstantinos Mitoglou, who had been lights out from deep lately, failed to connect from three (0-3), despite open looks.

As for Notre Dame, it was a nice, balanced effort, as five players score in double figures and eight players total scored. As a team, they hit an incredible 27-28 free throws. However, this was Jerian Grant’s night (as many of them are). Making his case for ACC player of the year, Wake couldn’t guard him, as he worked the high screens to perfection, getting way too many easy baskets at the rim. He finished with 24, dished out 10 assists and grabbed five steals. It was his third double-double of the season.

The Irish improve to 23-4, 11-3 in the ACC, remaining two games back of Virginia for first.

 

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