Noie: Notre Dame basketball looks out of its league in conference opener at Boston College

Tom Noie
ND Insider
Guard DeMarr Langford Jr. and Boston College was too much for Notre Dame to handle Friday at Conte Forum.

Following are NDI beat writer/columnist Tom Noie’s top three storylines/observations and other odds and ends/notes and quotes from Friday’s Atlantic Coast Conference basketball opener between Notre Dame and Boston College, won by the Eagles, 73-57. 

► They waited nine months for the first chance at redemption in the Atlantic Coast Conference and THAT was the effort offered in the league opener? 

Uh-oh. Long year alert. Like, really long year. Again. 

If Friday is any indication, this going to be one long year, one similar type of year from the previous three and four for the Irish in the ACC. Notre Dame, and not Boston College, looked like a team picked in preseason to finish last in the league. 

The Irish couldn’t match the effort or the intensity or the energy offered by the Eagles. They tumbled into an early 7-0 hole and never recovered. The Irish never led. They didn’t rebound much (out-rebounded 38-27). They didn’t defend (BC shot 49 percent from the field). They couldn’t score easily. 

Notre Dame (3-4; 0-1 ACC) played like it didn’t want to be there. It competed Monday in a 10-point loss at Illinois. It didn’t compete Friday. 

“They came out, punched us in the mouth, crushed us on the backboard and we never really recovered,” said coach Mike Brey. “We were on our heels the whole night, back on our heels physically, the whole night.” 

In its last two league games — last season against North Carolina and Friday against Boston College — Notre Dame has trailed by 50 points (UNC) and 23 points (BC). 

We’re only seven games in, but it’s time for some serious soul searching for this group of Irish seniors. Who do they want to be? How do they want to be remembered? Can this get fixed? 

Stay tuned. 

Freshman guard Blake Wesley made his first career start Friday at Boston College after a big game earlier in the week against Illinois.

► Even a change in the starting lineup didn’t help. 

Notre Dame started freshman guard Blake Wesley for the first time in his collegiate career in place of senior captain Prentiss Hubb, but Wesley played early like a kid in his seventh college game. He rushed shots. He turned it over. He took a couple of quick ones. He found himself back on the bench before the first media timeout in both halves. 

“He was playing against some 21-, 22-year-olds tonight, so we’ve got to keep helping him,” Brey said. 

Wesley’s going to be good, but he’s also a freshman, who tend to struggle to put together consecutive good games. One game after a career high 24 points, Wesley had 12 points, three rebounds and three assists, but a team-high four turnovers. 

The lineup change got Hubb going with a season high 15 points. 

“I think it helped him,” Brey said. 

Back to the drawing board on that one. And for everyone. 

Notre Dame power forward Paul Atkinson has struggled the last two games against power-five opponents.

► Former Yale power forward Paul Atkinson, Jr., was praised by Brey early this season for his ability to just play with poise and patience in the post, and a steady string of double-figure scoring games (and some rebounding as well) followed. But the last two games against Illinois and Boston College, Atkinson has looked unbelievably overmatched. He’s played small at times, invisible at others. 

That’s a big concern. 

It was expected against Big Ten preseason player of the year Kofi Cockburn, against whom Atkinson managed only three points and five rebounds in 19 minutes. That wasn’t expected against the Boston College big-man duo of James Karnik and Quinten Post. 

Atkinson was limited Friday to four points and four rebounds. For the second straight game, he spent extended stretches on the bench. He played a season low 16 minutes. It wasn’t just Atkinson who was absent. He and fellow power forward Nate Laszewski combined for only eight points and five rebounds in the decisive first half. The Boston College bigs went for 22 points and 15 rebounds. 

Game effectively over. 

“It looked like varsity versus the JV,” Brey said. “We got exactly what we deserved.” 

Who’s hot? 

Nobody. Notre Dame has lost three straight and four of five. Not only is nobody Irish hot, nobody Irish is close to warm. Hubb was better than he’s been all year with 15 points and two assists, but those were empty stats. The game never was one. Any numbers mean little. 

Who’s not? 

South Bend native and former Saint Joseph High School standout J.R. Konieczny is nowhere closer to cracking the rotation a month into his freshman season than he was when he enrolled in summer school in June. 

Konieczny may be the ninth man in a rotation that rarely stretches past seven. Six games in, Konieczny has played a total of four minutes (two each vs. CSNU and Chaminade) and scored two points. Brey likened the 6-foot-6, 195-pound Konieczny’s college career arc to that of former Irish small forward Tim Abromaitis, who played little as an underclassman, a lot as an older guy. 

Abromaitis scored 20 points and had 12 rebounds total in 12 games (and 40 total minutes) as a freshman. He finished his career with 1,117 points and 386 rebounds. Abromaitis could’ve made a serious run at Big East player of the year in 2011-12 if not for a college career-ending knee injury over Thanksgiving break. 

“It’s hard; he’s really young,” Brey said of Konieczny. “He gets to play against these old guys every day in practice. He gets it, getting older and stronger. He was really good (Wednesday) in practice against the white shirts.” 

Konieczny logged his fifth DNP-CD (did not play, coach’s decision) Friday. 

Former Notre Dame guard Matt Farrell had himself a career day his senior year at Conte Forum against a team he once verbally committed to while still in high school.

History lesson 

No Notre Dame visit to Conte Forum can pass without remembering one special afternoon for former Irish guard Matt Farrell, who at one time was verbally committed to play at Boston College. 

The student section in The Heights rarely let him forget that, and often let Farrell have it each time the Irish were in town during his four years. Farrell often fed off the fan treatment he received, and rode that to a record-setting day on Feb. 17, 2018. 

Farrell simply couldn’t miss and rarely did while scoring 37 points, the most points ever by an Irish player in an ACC game. He made 12 of 17 shots from the field, and was unconscious from 3. He took 12 shots. He made 10, to tie the school record for 3s in a game held by Kyle McAlarney. 

Farrell often played with a swagger that underscored his New Jersey roots. The swagger was extra spicy that day, which ended in an 84-67 Irish win. Boston College never had a chance. Farrell made sure of that.  

Worth quoting 

“If we’re not going to compete in there, we’ve got no shot.” 

— Irish coach Mike Brey to ACC Network at halftime after his team was out-rebounded 24-12 in the opening half. 

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey is concerned about the lack of defense from the 3-point line by the Irish.

Worth noting 

It was the one area within an area that had to get better if the Irish were going to be better this season — 3-point field goal percentage defense. 

Notre Dame ranked 12th in the ACC in that department last season at .366 percent. Opposing teams made too good of a living from beyond the arc, where they often got started early with open looks and hit them often. 

Six games into this season, the Irish were even worse in that defensive department. Heading into Friday’s game, Notre Dame was 348th out of 350 Division I teams in the weekly NCAA rankings. Teams were shooting 42.2 percent from 3. Only Mississippi Valley State (42.7) and Alabama A&M (44.4) — two teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference — were worse than Notre Dame. 

“That is a mystery to me and it’s something we have to be better at,” Brey said Thursday of the numbers. “We’ve spent so much time at challenging shots and getting out (on shooters). Right now, that is crushing us. People are lining it up and have been very confident.” 

Too confident. 

Karnik then stepped out and hit a top of the key 3 only 17 seconds in. Boston College finished 6-for-13 (46 percent) from 3. It really didn’t matter. Notre Dame didn’t do anything well in any other area for it to make a difference. 

By the numbers 

► 0: Notre Dame never led Friday and trailed by as many as 23 to a team picked to finish last in the league. Let that sit for a minute. Or two. 

► 1: When Laszeswski completed an and-one sequence with 14:49 remaining in Friday’s first half, it marked the first free throw the senior captain has shot this season. Coming in, Laszewski had played 177:50 minutes — an average of 26.7 per game the first six — without shooting a single free throw. 

► 3: Three weeks into the regular season, Notre Dame's three wins are over Cal State Northridge, High Point and Division II Chaminade.

► 5: Number of times Notre Dame has started ACC play 0-1 during its nine years as a league member, including each of the last four years. The Irish are 4-5 in conference openers. 

► 6:02: Time that Friday evening's game tipped, which seemed more like a late-morning start considering the last five Irish games started at 9 p.m., 11:30, 10:30, 11:30 and 8 Eastern Standard time. The basketball traveling party might’ve even gotten back to Indiana before midnight after the game ended at 7:55. 

► 8: Number of ACC statistical categories that Notre Dame ranked 10th or worse in heading into league play. That included 13th in steals (5.0), 12th in scoring offense (71.0), field goal percentage defense (.435), 3-point field goal percentage (.327) and assists (12.1) and 10th in assist/turnover ratio (+0.67), where the Irish finished third last season (+1.41). 

► 2006: Last time prior to Friday that Notre Dame played a league road game on a Friday. That night — Jan. 20 - the Irish were beaten by Marquette, 67-65, following a Steve Novak jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining. While a snowstorm swirled outside, a record setting crowd of 18,874 witnessed it at the Bradley Center. The noise that erupted when Novak’s fade jumper fell was ridiculously loud. 

Next up for Notre Dame, a visit from Kentucky and coach John Calipari.

Next up 

Following five games in 11 days — all away from home on an extended trip that stretched from Nevada to New England — Notre Dame finally returns to Purcell Pavilion where it has played only twice on Dec. 11 to face No. 9 Kentucky. It’s the first home game in 25 days and the first against a ranked team for Notre Dame, which snapped a 28-game winless streak to ranked teams in last season’s home finale against then-No. 11 Florida State. 

On the heels of last season’s first-ever win at Rupp Arena, Notre Dame looks for a second consecutive victory over Kentucky for the first time since wins in the 1988 and 1990 seasons. 

“It’s coming at us fast,” Brey said. 

Maybe too fast. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI

BOSTON COLLEGE 73, NOTRE DAME 57

At Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Halftime: Boston College 37-27. 3-Point Goals: Notre Dame 8-28 (Hubb 3-4, Laszewski 2-3, Wesley 2-6, Ryan 1-5, Wertz 0-4, Goodwin 0-6), Boston College: 6-13 (Bickerstaff 2-2, Karnik 1-1, Post 1-1, Ashton-Langford 1-2, Galloway 1-6, Jones 0-1). Rebounds: Notre Dame 23 (Laszewski 8), Boston College 37 (Karnik 13). Assists: Notre Dame 13 (Wertz 4), Boston College 13 (Ashton-Langford, Langford 4). Total Fouls: Notre Dame 11, Boston College 7. A: 6,023 (8,606).