Men's Basketball: Irish starting lineup shuffles for Louisville game

Tom Noie
ND Insider

He just couldn't make it work so he could go to work.

Feb 9, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Nate Laszewski, left, sits on the bench in the first half against the Louisville Cardinals at the Purcell Pavilion. Laszewski was recovering from an injury sustained in a previous game. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

For the last four seasons, for nearly 400 combined practices and more than 100 games, Notre Dame power forward Nate Laszewski has been there. Ready to work. Ready to compete. Ready to do what he needed to do to help the Irish win.

Until Wednesday.

Still nursing a bruised right leg suffered in the early moments of Saturday's win at North Carolina State, Laszewski was dressed in street clothes for Wednesday's home game against Louisville.

Laszewski had been deemed Tuesday a "gametime decision" by Irish coach Mike Brey.

"We have prepared (Monday) and will prepare (Tuesday) like we will not have him," Brey said. "It's a pretty good bruise, knee to the outside of the knee, so he's tender."

Cormac Ryan started in place of Laszewski.

Wednesday marked the first game in Laszewski's 113-game career that he's missed. It's the first game an Irish player has missed this season due to injury since senior guard Trey Wertz sat out the Texas A&M Corpus Christi game on Dec. 22 with an ankle injury.

"He's tough and he's durable," Brey said of Laszewski.

In 23 games this season, all starts, Laszewski is averaging 8.4 points and 7.0 rebounds in 29.1 minutes. he's shooting .489 percent from the field, .444 percent from 3 and .786 percent from the foul line. He's also been one of the team's most consistent defenders in the way he guards, rotates to take charges (he was hurt taking one) and rebounds.

That's where the Irish will miss him most Wednesday.

"He is such a voice and a rotator and a talker back there helping guys," Brey said.

Laszewski played five scoreless minutes before leaving Saturday's game at North Carolina State. Brey stayed with a six-man rotation the final 35 minutes.

Brey said Tuesday that he would have sophomores Tony Sanders, Jr., and Matt Zona and freshman J.R. Konieczny available to take Laszewski's minutes. The 6-9, 240-pound Zona likely would be the first new reserve off the bench.

Zona entered Wednesday's game having scored two points in three minutes over two ACC games this season. He last played Jan. 31 against Duke.

"It's a Zona kind of getting him comfortable the next two days," Brey said Tuesday.

Wednesday marked the first time that the Irish starting lineup has changed since the Jan. 8 win at Georgia Tech. That's when Brey benched graduate student power forward Paul Atkinson, Jr., the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the week this week, for ineffectiveness.

The starting five of Atkinson, Laszewski and guards Dane Goodwin, Prentiss Hubb and Blake Wesley is 11-2 together this season.

Notre Dame (16-7; 9-3) entered Wednesday's game tied for first place in the ACC with No. 7 Duke. The Irish have won 12 of their last 14, beaten twice in a span of 52 days.

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