Notes: Wesley freshman of week in ACC; league finds reschedule date for Duke game
Another strong week of basketball work for Notre Dame freshman guard Blake Wesley, another Atlantic Coast Conference honor.
This time, it’s all his.
On Monday, the Riley High School graduate and South Bend native earned league freshman of the week for the second time this season after averaging 20 points, four rebounds, 3.5 steals and two assists in league wins over North Carolina (Wednesday) and Georgia Tech (Saturday).
With Notre Dame down two and under a minute to play in regulation Saturday at Georgia Tech, Wesley connected on a 3-pointer from the right wing to give the Irish a lead.
It looked at the start of the possession like Irish coach Mike Brey tried to lean in and say something to Wesley as he ran past the bench before circling back to the wing and rising and firing.
“What I’ve tried to do with him, and he’s such a special one, this is special, man, is, ‘Take a good one,’” Brey said of the sequence. “Sometimes he’s settled a little bit and then sometimes a great player goes, ‘Hey, Coach, I’ve got this,’ and just rises up and gives you the lead.
“And then you go, ‘Hey Ben Hansbrough, hey Blake Wesley, go ahead and win the game. I’ll shut up. I think I’m experienced enough to know when to get the (heck) out of the way of great players and let them play. He’s fearless, man.”
In overtime, Wesley drove the lane and found senior guard/captain Prentiss Hubb in the corner. Hubb’s 3-pointer gave Notre Dame (9-5 overall; 3-1 ACC) a lead it wouldn’t relinquish while running its win streak to five, including three straight in league play.
“They,” Brey said of the Wesley-Hubb combo, “had the defense on its heels.”
Wesley scored a game-high 22 points with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals against the Yellow Jackets.
Earlier in the week at home against the Tar Heels, Wesley scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half. He finished with a career high four steals, one of which led to a breakaway dunk in the first half.
Welsey’s seven steals last week led all ACC freshman and was second of all league players. He also earned rookie of the week honors the week of Dec. 13 coming clear of his game-winning pull-up jumper against then-No. 10 Kentucky on Dec. 11. Wesley shared top freshman honors in the league that week with North Carolina State guard Terquavion Smith.
Only Duke freshman power forward Paolo Banchero has earned more ACC freshman of the week honors (three) than Wesley.
"He’s super talented, incredibly athletic, fast in the open court and even in the halfcourt the way he cuts and moves, really a tough cover,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said of Wesley. “He's given them a little jolt of athleticism that maybe they didn’t have."
Wesley is averaging 14.3 points (second on the squad), 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 26.8 minutes. He’s shooting .444 percent from the field, .342 from 3 and .686 from the foul line.
Notre Dame returns to action Wednesday at home against Clemson.
Home game with Duke set for Jan. 31
Notre Dame was not scheduled this season to make any appearances on ESPN’s “Big Monday.”
That plan changed in a big way Monday afternoon.
Notre Dame’s home game against Duke, originally scheduled for New Year’s Day, was rescheduled by the league for Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPN, which was set to show the North Carolina-Louisville game.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski makes his final appearance at Purcell Pavilion in the Jan. 31 game. The New Year’s Day game was postponed after the Blue Devils entered health/safety protocols. It will be the teams’ only meeting of the regular season.
Moving the Duke game to Jan. 31 means Notre Dame again has to run a Saturday-Monday home game gauntlet of Virginia and Duke. Last time that happened in 2018-19, Notre Dame lost to eventual national champion Virginia by 27 points on a late-January Saturday, then to Duke and future No. 1 NBA draft pick Zion Williamson by 22 on that Monday.
Notre Dame won at Duke in last season’s lone meeting.
Duke (for now) is the lone ranked team remaining on the Notre Dame schedule. The Blue Devils (12-2; 2-1) are No. 8 in this week’s Associated Press poll. Duke plays Jan. 29 at noon at Louisville. The Jan. 29 home game against Virginia for Notre Dame tips at 6 p.m.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI