How did mid-week matchup between Notre Dame and Boston U. unfold?

Tom Noie
ND Insider
Dec 7, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Marcus Hammond (10) drives to the basket as Boston University Terriers guard Ethan Brittain-Watts (0) is tripped up by Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Nate Laszewski (14) in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Laszewski was called for an offensive foul on the play. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

SOUTH BEND Three quick thoughts and other news and notes and anecdotes following Wednesday’s men’s college basketball game between Boston University (5-5) and Notre Dame (7-2), won by the Irish, 81-75, in front of 4,986 (no way) at Purcell Pavilion. 

∎ One look at the schedule — how the Irish fared last weekend and what’s coming this weekend — and it was clear that this one was not going to be all that easy. It just wasn’t. At least, not as easy as it should’ve been. 

This contest fell between the Atlantic Coast Conference opener/loss to Syracuse and the renewal of the rivalry with Marquette. Two big games. Two marquee games. Two must-win games. Add finals week closing quickly to a midweek game and you were going to get the kind of game Notre Dame played. Good for stretches, not good for others. Good enough to win. Not bad enough to lose. 

“We,” said super senior guard Trey Wertz, “figured out a way to grind it out.” 

The Irish were sluggish early. Then a spurt saw the home team balloon their lead to 13. Figure it’s going to go to 20 before halftime, right? Nope. Trickled back down under double digits and was seven at the break. 

More:Notre Dame basketball could not operate against the Syracuse zone defense in home loss

Boston U. then hit its first four shots and took the lead in the opening minutes of the second half. A 9-0 Irish run — all 3s — stabilized everything, but this was a lot of what we’d seen against Radford and Lipscomb and name any other non-league game for Notre Dame. 

Nothing really has come that easily. Why should Wednesday have been any different? It wasn’t. Even when the Irish extended their lead to a game-high 16 points with 11:22 remaining. 

Game pressure visited. Again. 

“We’re good at winning close games,” said senior guard Cormac Ryan, who scored a game-high 21 points. “That’s a quality that’s helped us and will continue to help us down the stretch. I think we’d prefer to not be in close games, but getting a win is a win.” 

Dec 7, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Boston University Terriers guard Miles Brewster (24) goes up for a shot as Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Ven-Allen Lubin (2) defends in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Yet close it was, in part because the Irish couldn’t close. Up big in the first half, close game. Up big in the second half, close game. Why? 

“Just continuing to guard,” Ryan said. “I think sometimes we’ll score and end up trading buckets. Just continuing to sit down and put stops together in a row.” 

∎ We’re nine games into the regular season and the Irish rotation shows no sign of going anywhere past seven on any given night. 

Don’t expect that to change anytime soon, especially since said rotation basically hit the reset button over the weekend in the league opener against Syracuse. That’s when super senior guard Marcus Hammond rejoined the rotation after missing the first stretch of games with a right knee injury. Hammond played 19 minutes Saturday and 15 Wednesday. 

For this team to do anything in the coming weeks, Hammond has to play. A lot. He won’t find his flow while juniors Tony Sanders and Matt Zona or freshman Dom Campbell are tossed some token minute crumbs. This rotation of seven remains the proverbial work in progress, and that work has only started. 

All seven played within the first six minutes. Four of the five starters each logged at least 31 minutes. 

“I told those seven guys, I said, ‘Fellas, you’re going to play,’” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “Now I’ve got another body to roll through there. I’m still getting a feel for that.” 

So, it’s the five guys who’ve started the first nine games, and it’s Hammond and freshman Ven-Allen Lubin off the bench. That’s it. It’s not going to eight, so you can stop wondering. And worrying. And asking. 

∎ Do something different besides settling for 3s. 

That was the thought change for Wertz, who celebrated a birthday this week, but struggled to find a good offensive flow over his last five games. After going for 18, 15 and 20 points the first three games, Wertz didn’t hit double figures in the following five. 

Instead of settling for open looks from deep, — which usually are good shots for him in this offense — Wertz decided to find a really good shot on Wednesday. 

That was a really good decision. 

Wertz finished 50/50 — six shots from 2, six shots from 3 — and bounced back with 16 points to go with four assists and two rebounds.  

“Just kind of getting in there, getting some layups, some easier looks in rhythm,” Wertz said of his game. “Being a little more assertive on that end too. Especially when it got (close) me and (Cormac) got a little more assertive.” 

Dec 7, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Nate Laszewski (14) goes up for a shot as Boston University Terriers guard Anthony Morales (22) defends in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Worth noting

Word broke early Tuesday afternoon that Notre Dame has its MTE (multi-team event) signed and sealed for early in the 2023-24 season. 

For the second time in its MTE history, Notre Dame returns to Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2023 Legends Classic on Nov. 16-17. It’s part of a Final Four field that includes Auburn, Oklahoma State and St. Bonaventure. 

Notre Dame kind of/sort of participated in an MTE (but not really in a traditional sense) this season by playing four games (three at home) in the Gotham Classic before meeting St. Bonaventure at UBS Arena in Elmont, New York on Black Friday. The Bonnies handed the Irish their first loss (63-51). 

Notre Dame last participated in the Legends Classic in 2016, winning the two-day/two-game event at Barclays by beating Colorado and Northwestern. Texas also participated. The championship game win over Northwestern still is remembered by the Matt Farrell tongue game (if you know, you know). 

Farrell, the former Irish guard, earned tournament most valuable player honors after averaging 19.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists in 33 minutes in those two Legends games. 

Arizona State beat Michigan last month to win the Legends Classic. 

History lesson

Wednesday marked 54 years to the day — Dec. 7, 1968 — that the arena now known as Purcell Pavilion officially opened for college basketball business. 

On Dec. 7, 1968, Notre Dame dedicated what was then the Athletic and Convocation Center (later Joyce Center before Purcell Pavilion). The building officially opened when No. 5 Notre Dame, coached by Johnny Dee, lost to No. 1 UCLA, 88-75. 

Notre Dame won its first game in its new home four days later with a 57-56 victory over Wisconsin. That’s still the last time the Badgers have played in South Bend. 

Somebody needs to fix that. Soon. 

According records on the school’s official web site — — Notre Dame was 535-151 all time (.779 percent) heading into Wednesday’s game. 

Worth quoting 

“Who’s interrupting over there?”  Ryan as Brey, in mid-conversation as he entered the room, accidently talked over the players’ post-game press conference. Only Ryan would ask that. 

By the numbers

1: Notre Dame entered Wednesday’s game ranked No. 1 in the nation for fewest fouls per game (10.5). The Irish then committed 16, which led to 16 Terrier free throws. 

2: Number of non-league home games remaining for Notre Dame before it’s ACC play the rest of the way starting Dec. 30 (tip TBD) against Miami (Fla.). 

6: Number of blocked shots for the Irish, including three from Lubin. The Irish entered the game ranked 13th in the ACC in blocked shots (2.88 per game). 

7: Number of Boston U. players who chose to kneel during the national anthem. 

7:33: Amount of time the Irish played in the second half without leading scorer Nate Laszewski, who was poked in the eye going up for a shot under the basket. Laszewski was looked at by the medical staff and returned to watch the final minutes at the end of the Irish bench. 

13: Number of players (everybody) available for the Irish in practice this week, a first this season. 

15: Consecutive free throws made to start the season for Irish super senior guard Dane Goodwin before his first miss, which arrived midway through the second half. Goodwin had another spin out in the closing two minutes. 

32: Bench points for Boston U. Notre Dame had 11. 

58.8: Free throw percentage coming into the contest for Irish guard J.J. Starling, who finished 6-of-6 from the line, part of his 15 points in 34 minutes. 

83.3: Percentage the Irish shot from the foul line (20-of-24), which included 9-for-12 (75 percent) the final 2:48. 

More:Ready or not, here comes Atlantic Coast Conference play for Notre Dame men

Next up

Time to dust off what was once a great rivalry between two Midwestern private schools/Independent colleagues when Marquette (7-3) comes back to town Sunday for a 4 p.m. game. 

Former Irish power forward John Shumate, a two-time All-American, who averaged double figures for points and rebounds in his collegiate career, will be inducted into the school’s Ring of Honor at halftime. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.

Notre Dame 81, Boston U. 75

Dec 7, 2022 9:45 PM - words

BOSTON U. (5-5): Chimezie 1-4 0-0 2, Brittain-Watts 6-14 2-2 19, Harper 1-6 1-2 4, Tynen 1-5 3-4 5, Whyte 4-12 3-4 13, Zink 6-8 1-2 13, Morales 3-3 0-0 8, Brewster 2-2 1-2 5, Jones 2-4 0-0 6, Nobili 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-59 11-16 75.

NOTRE DAME (7-2): Laszewski 4-5 1-1 9, Goodwin 2-10 4-6 9, Ryan 6-7 5-6 21, Starling 4-11 6-6 15, Wertz 6-12 1-1 16, Lubin 3-4 3-4 9, Hammond 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 26-53 20-24 81.

Halftime—Notre Dame 36-29. 3-Point Goals—Boston U. 12-29 (Brittain-Watts 5-10, Morales 2-2, Jones 2-4, Whyte 2-6, Harper 1-5, Nobili 0-1, Tynen 0-1), Notre Dame 9-17 (Ryan 4-4, Wertz 3-6, Goodwin 1-3, Starling 1-3, Laszewski 0-1). Rebounds—Boston U. 32 (Chimezie 8), Notre Dame 27 (Laszewski 9). Assists—Boston U. 15 (Brittain-Watts, Tynen, Brewster 3), Notre Dame 13 (Wertz 4). Total Fouls—Boston U. 19, Notre Dame 16. A—4,986 (9,149).