Notre Dame escapes Miami’s stormy second half comeback
By: Joe Rokicki
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish held on to defeat the Miami Hurricanes in Thursday night’s quarterfinal match up in the ACC Tournament 70-63.
Coach Mike Bray’s Irish stormed to an 18 point lead in the first half. Pat Connaughton led Notre Dame with 14 points in the first half, highlighted by a perfect 4-4 outing from beyond the arc. Notre Dame shot 63% from the field in the first half.
Miami struggled mightily in the first half and only shot 35% from the field. The Hurricanes converted just one three point attempt in a disastrous half of basketball.
“I thought we would shoot the ball much better against them. We were 1 for 10 from three, and that’s not really who we are. When we’re not shooting the ball well, it dramatically impacts our defense,” said Miami Coach Jim Larranaga after the game.
Coach Larranaga summoned a zone defense in order clog up lanes and blur the Irish’s clear court vision. However, the Hurricanes typically don’t run a zone defense – ever. But, they are no stranger to seemingly insurmountable comebacks. “We were down big at Floriday eaerly in the season, came back and won. We were down big at halftime to Virginia, came back and put it into overtime.
“We can put ourselves back in the game, but we’re going to have to do the things we planned on doing from the start and that is play much better defense and score the ball better. We did both things, and found ourselves in a very tight ballgame with five minutes to play,” said Coach Larranaga.
The Hurricanes erased an 18 point deficit to tie the game at 47 off of a three pointer from Ivan Cruz Uceda with 8:55 left in the second half. Notre Dame hadn’t converted a field goal until the ensuing possession when Jerian Grant put the Irish back in front by two, 49-47. A rare Hurricane zone defense stifled the red hot Irish who only shot 32% from the field in the second half. Coach Mike Bray explained some of the challenges Miami’s zone offered the Irish: “I think it’s the bodies that are in a zone. When they’re long and their open stance bothers you, it’s hard. It was tricky to play against.”
Hurricanes center Tonye Jekiri threw the Irish for fits in the front court and recorded a double-double. Jekiri’s 11 rebounds Thursday night marked the 19th time he has recorded double figure outings in on the glass. Jekiri fouled out late in the second half, which arguably altered the course for the remainder of the game.
Despite Miami’s second half transformation, the Irish were able to save a victory thanks to timely shooting and exceptional free throw shooting.
Notre Dame will face Duke Friday night in the ACC Tournament Semi-Final Round.