Noie: Time for Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski to get going for Notre Dame in ACC play

Staff reports
ND Insider

Once college basketball’s conference play gets cooking, it’s never too early to open the oven and take the temperature of the freshmen.

Especially the freshmen.

They may be more than a dozen games into their college careers when league play arrives, but everything they thought they knew about the college game to that point they might as well forget. Everything changes. The speed of the game. The intensity. The importance of every possession. The skill level of every guy on the other team.

Everything’s magnified and intensified.

That’s why Notre Dame coach Mike Brey waited all of two games into his team’s 18-game Atlantic Coast Conference schedule before meeting with two freshmen — guard Dane Goodwin and power forward Nate Laszewski.

Notre Dame (11-6; 1-3 ACC) opened conference play on the road against No. 9 Virginia Tech, one of the league’s oldest and most experienced outfits. It showed as that core made key plays at key times to pull away late for an 81-66 victory. Next up was a home opener against Syracuse and its trademark 2/3 zone. The Orange also played old and made the plays when the plays needed to be made in a 72-67 victory.

That led to consultation time for Goodwin and Laszewski with Brey. Two games into league play, what did they think? Where to start? At the top of the list was the speed of the game. Everything moved so much faster than non-conference play. It was something that neither really were prepared for, but something both knew they had to adjust to. Fast.

Both need to get going in league play for the Irish to do the same.

“It’s been tough,” Goodwin said. “Just going through the league schedule, every game is a challenge. It’s been a struggle.”

“The speed, the physicality is ramped up, but I think I’ll be able to adjust to it,” Laszewski said. “I’m still learning every single game.”

Brey would like to see the learning curve for both accelerate, like it did for fellow freshman Prentiss Hubb. The point guard struggled with everything ACC his first two games. Starting with last week’s win over Boston College, and continuing with Tuesday’s near-miss at No. 13 North Carolina, Hubb has found his groove.

Hubb set career bests for points the last two games with 16 and 18. He had five assists and the game-winning free throws against Boston College. He had six assists in 34 minutes at Carolina. Hubb enters the weekend ranked eighth in the ACC for assist/turnover ratio (2.03) and is suddenly one confident kid.

Brey would like to see the same growth from Goodwin and Laszewski starting Saturday at home against No. 17 North Carolina State (14-3; 2-2). In four ACC games, Goodwin is averaging 5.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 28.5 minutes. Laszewski is averaging 8.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 0.3 assists in 25 minutes.

Both have been hammered with the same advice during practices and in games — don’t turn down scoring chances. If you have a shot, take the shot. Brey jumped Goodwin the other night when he passed up an open 3 to make a pass to T.J. Gibbs, who missed his wing 3.

“Coach Brey being hard on me, that’s only going to help,” Goodwin said. “I kind of enjoy that challenge, to find that extra gear and make that big play.”

Goodwin shot 40.6 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from 3 in non-league. He’s shooting 26.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3 in league play. He’s taken only 10 3s in four league games. Laszewski made 41.8 percent of his shots and 36.4 percent from 3 in the non-league. He’s at 31.4 percent and 28 percent in four league games.

“They both have turned down shots sometimes,” Brey said. “They’re going to get playing time. They just have to be aggressive for us. It’s just a process with them.”

A process that Brey knew was coming, regardless of how well they performed during non-league. Goodwin played a season-high 36 minutes against Binghamton, then scored a season-high 19 points two nights later against Jacksonville. Laszewski scored a season-high 15 points against DePaul. He also had 12 points and seven rebounds against Jacksonville.

Brey knew both would see the other side of that spectrum in the ACC. It happens to every freshman. It happened two years ago to Gibbs, who indicated that it took him about eight games — nearly half the league schedule — to figure out league play. It’s different. It’s demanding.

“This is the big guys now,” Gibbs said. “You’re not going up against the Mount Saint Marys or the Coppin States. These are the Dukes and Carolinas, like these are guys that have No. 1 draft picks and those types of guys coming at you.”

Even when you can’t see them. Laszewski mustered a steal at halfcourt Tuesday and seemingly had a breakaway dunk beckoning. As he rose to flush a two-hand slam, Tar Heel guard Seventh Woods swooped in to swat the ball away.

Something that had never before happened to Laszewski happened that fast.

“I didn’t feel him coming,” Laszewski said. “It was kind of a surprise, but it’s a basketball play in the ACC. It’s going to happen.”

It’s also going to happen for Goodwin and Laszewski. They’re going to start hitting shots. They’re going to get rolling. They know it. They can feel it with each passing league game.

“It’s not so much that these ACC teams are big and bad,” Goodwin said. “It’s that we’ve got to play our game to give us a chance. It’s a matter of time before it starts clicking.”

“It’s coming,” Laszewski said.

It’s taken a few Atlantic Coast Conference games for Notre Dame freshmen Nate Laszewski, left, and Dane Goodwin to adjust to league play.
Notre Dame’s Nate Laszewski (14) tries to shoot against Boston College’s Nik Popovic (21) after being fouled during Saturday's game in South Bend.

WHO: Notre Dame (11-6; 1-3 ACC) vs. No. 17 North Carolina State (14-3; 2-2)

WHERE: Purcell Pavilion (9,149).

WHEN: Saturday at 2 p.m.

TICKETS: Available.

TV: WMYS.

RADIO: WSBT (960 AM/96.1 FM).

ONLINE: Follow every Notre Dame game with live updates from Tribune beat writer Tom Noie at twitter.com@tnoieNDI

MEN’S BASKETBALL

NOTING: North Carolina State has lost two of its last three league games following Tuesday’s 71-67 loss at Wake Forest. The Wolfpack trailed by as many as 22 points before tying it midway through the second half. The top-shooting team in the ACC, North Carolina State shot a season low for field goal percentage (37.0) and 3-point field goal percentage (20.7). … North Carolina State returns only three players – all starters – from last year’s team that finished 21-12, 11-7 and tied for third in the ACC. … The Wolfpack were picked this preseason to finish eighth in the league, one spot ahead of the Irish. … Ten Wolfpack average at least 11 minutes per game, six average at least 9.2 points. … The Wolfpack had only 13 off the bench in Tuesday’s loss to Wake Forest after averaging 37.1 bench points the first 16 games. That includes a school record 62 bench points in the Dec. 22 win over USC-Upstate. … North Carolina State leads the ACC in field goal percentage at .498; Notre Dame ranks last at .415. … Notre Dame leads the all-time series 8-5, 4-2 in the ACC. The Irish are 3-3 overall at home against the Wolfpack, who last won in South Bend on Jan. 7, 2014. … Saturday marks the 45th anniversary of Notre Dame’s historic 71-70 victory over UCLA, which snapped the Bruins’ 88-game win streak.

QUOTING: “We’re so early into the ACC season. We’ve got ground to make up, but we have the games to do it and we have the guys to do it.”

• Notre Dame freshman guard Dane Goodwin