Irish Road Swing Continues

Author: Sean Stires

Brey_4Notre Dame is set to get reacquainted with another old Big East rival in the ACC. The Irish have had new encounters with the likes of Virginia Tech, Boston College and Syracuse – all former Big East members – in their first season in the ACC and now they are set to take on Miami.

It has been a little more than a decade since the Irish and Hurricanes last met on the hardwood when they were both in the Big East. Notre Dame beat Miami 72-62 on Jan. 28, 2004 at what was then the Joyce Center. Their last previous encounter was a 90-77 Irish win on Feb. 23, 2002.

Those are the only two games against Miami for Irish head coach Mike Brey, but they two teams have played a total of 15 times. Eleven of those games came as members of the Big East. The Irish hold an 8-7 series lead.

Miami (12-13, 3-9 ACC) is coming off one of the best seasons in school history under third-year head coach Jim Larranaga. The Hurricanes went all the way to the Sweet 16 last year before bowing out of the Sweet 16 to Marquette.

The Hurricanes are led in scoring by Rion Brown. The 6’6 guard is one of five seniors currently starting for Miami. He is averaging 14.4 points and has hit a team-best 49 of 149 3-pointers (32%). Brown also leads the team with 6.2 rebounds per game.

The matchup at the arc is likely to be pivotal in Tuesday night’s game. The Irish have the second to last 3-point field goal percentage defense (.372) in the ACC heading into the game. Miami shoots just 32% from long range and Brown is one of six Hurricanes who has hit at least 12 3-pointers this season.

Garrius Adams is Miami’s only other double-digit scorer at 10.0 points per game. The fifth-year senior has dished-out a team-high 2.8 assists per game. Donnavan Kirk, another fifth-year senior, has blocked 45 shots for the ‘Canes. The 6’9 forward is averaging 8.8 points. Tonye Jekiri, a 7’0 center from Haileah, Fla, has 19 blocks.

Larranaga has switched thing up defensively this season. His teams played man-to-man defenses nearly 95% of the time in his first 40 years of coaching, but with a slower team on the floor this year the Hurricanes have played zone variety defenses 95% of the time.

The zone look has led to frustrating nights for Miami opponents this season. The Hurricanes have held 16 of their last 18 opponents to less than 70 points. Only four of 25 teams overall have scored more than 70 points.

The Hurricanes enter Tuesday’s game with the No. 4 scoring defense in the ACC at 59.6 points allowed. The Irish are the No. 3 scoring offense in the conference at 73.6 ppg. The teams are near polar opposites of one another though. The Irish rank 14th in scoring defense (70.2 ppg allowed) and Miami ranks 15th (dead last) in scoring offense at 61 ppg.

The Irish won their first road game of the season Sunday night when they beat Boston College 73-69 at Conte Forum. The Irish are still just 1-6 on the road this season, including a 1-5 mark in the ACC. Tuesday’s game at Miami is the second of three straight road games in a six  day span for the Irish. The three trips will cover a total of 5,832 miles.

A win over Miami would give Mike Brey his 300th victory at Notre Dame. He is 299-154 since taking the Irish helm. He needs two more wins to reach 400 in his career. His record in 19 seasons at Delaware and Notre Dame is 398-206.

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