Florida State jumps all over Notre Dame in first minute, and this one was all over

Tom Noie
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — Standing in the basement of the Smith Center some 550 miles away 10 days earlier, Notre Dame super senior Dane Goodwin insisted that no matter how much bad had happened to date, and a lot already had, it couldn’t get worse for this Irish basketball team. 

You wanted to believe him. You wanted to trust him. He said it in a way that seemed like he was trying to convince himself, and anyone else still listening, still caring about this college basketball season. Couldn’t get much worse, even then, even as the Irish opened with five straight league losses. 

Noie:A lot for the Irish to like in this one, well, except for the final score

That had to be the bottom, didn’t it? Yep, Goodwin tried to convince you that afternoon in Chapel Hill after a loss to North Carolina, all the bad definitely maybe was behind these Irish for this season. 

It wasn’t. 

Maybe Tuesday is bottom, the worst that it can get for this team and this season after a Florida State team that was winless on the road in league play (0-3) and winless away from home overall (0-8) took the collective spirit of Notre Dame (9-10 overall; 1-7 ACC) at Purcell Pavilion (something Marquette also did last month) in a game the Seminoles won 84-71. 

Afterward, it seemed like the head coach and the players aren't on the same page. Or even reading the same book.

“I misread us,” said head coach Mike Brey. “I really thought we’d be really ready to chest (defend) a little bit more. I’m just really disappointed that we couldn’t put our chest on some people.”

Jan 17, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Matthew Cleveland (35) dribbles as Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dane Goodwin (23) defends in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Not a chest-on-someone type of program, Notre Dame lost at home in league play for the third time this season after losing once last year, which already seems so far away. It’s not the most confident of groups, something that wasn’t helped with Florida State’s start. Why do the other guys feel so at home in the Irish home? 

“I defer to my guys,” Brey said. “I really thought we’d really be digging in and hungry and a little more fight to us. God, I thought we’d really stick our nose in there.” 

There was none of that. Or, too little of it. Oh, the Irish made a couple spirited runs, and gave everyone an opportunity to point to that one glimmer of a positive and say, hey, at least they battled. At least they fought. At least they didn’t get blown out. But it’s all fake. It's all phony. All this talk about fight. All this talk about having X number of league games left to do something.

Jan 17, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Florida State Seminoles forward Cam Corhen (3) dunks in the second half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Irish haven't really done anything. Notre Dame has beaten Georgia Tech. In overtime. That's it.

The Irish had no choice Tuesday but to fight in each half that saw the home team, in front of an actually spirited/solid crowd, trail by as many as 24 points. This veteran group has seen a lot, but they have never seen this – down by two dozen in both halves. New territory for everyone around these parts. hard territory to reach, but the Irish still reached it.

Notre Dame had no choice but to fight and play and scrap, or go down by 30 and lose by 40. Yeah, the Irish made a game of it late in the first half with a 21-3 run, then in the second with a 16-1 run, but it really didn’t matter. 

“It,” Brey said of the deficits, “felt like we were down 40.” 

Jan 17, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey signals to his players in the second half against the Florida State Seminoles at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Find a positive from this one. Go ahead, we’ll wait. You might find one next week, next month, next year. 

This game, when you listen to the head coach who’s run out of answers for ways to reach his team, was lost in the first freaking minute of a game that Notre Dame trailed on its home floor for a staggering 39:36. 

Two plays, and the Irish were done

It took Florida State 24 seconds to score its first basket on a baseline drive by guard Caleb Mills. Twenty-five seconds after that, Matthew Cleveland snared a defensive rebound and headed up the floor. He crossed halfcourt, with no resistance. He crossed over the massive ND logo on the other side of the timeline, with no resistance. He got to the Irish free throw line, with still, no resistance. 

Cleveland then took off from somewhere near Elkhart — really, just inside the block-charge arc — and finished with a swooping tomahawk dunk to make it 4-0. What’s the first rule of transition basketball? The rule you’re taught when you’re barely old enough to dribble? Stop. The. Basketball. When nobody did, it was game effectively over. Thanks for showing up, Irish. Hey. At least they looked good in those green unis. Look, a positive! 

“The tone is set,” Brey said of FSU's first two possessions. “We fought to make it interesting, but you just set the tone with that. Those first two possessions, now they’re confident at hell.” 

Jan 17, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Marcus Hammond (10) dribbles as Florida State Seminoles guard Caleb Mills (4) defends in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Confident enough to score the first 10 points. Confident enough to make six of their first eight shots. Confident enough to defend the Irish into missing their first seven. Confident.

Brey couldn’t even wait until the first television timeout — which arrives with the first whistle four-plus minutes in — before stopping the game. The Seminoles stayed smoking hot from the floor, hitting shots, hitting 3s, getting fouled after hitting 3s, and before anyone in the arena really could settle in, it was 32-8 visitors less than nine minutes in. 

Afterward, you felt for Marcus Hammond, the super senior guard who arrived in the offseason as a graduate transfer from Niagara. Hammond has never played in the NCAA tournament, and figured that this was his year, this was THE year, that he would experience March and all of its madness with a group of veteran Irish who could/would get back there.

After going for a team-high 19 points, Hammond was summoned to the interview room. Tough spot for him, and one that he shouldn’t have been put in. Nobody wanted to ask him about him about his buckets. Nobody wanted to ask him anything but what happened at the start. 

“That dunk kind of set the tone,” Hammond said. “Just gotta start the game better. Just come out with more energy on the defensive side.” 

For a kid who’s been on campus all of seven months, to be the voice of the players in that spot is not a fair ask of him afterward. Send in one of the four veterans. Hammond shouldn’t have to answer those questions about how and why everything went wrong at the start. It should be a team captain. No captain was made available. 

They don’t have any additional answers. Does the head coach? Mainly, is this season too broke to fix? Is the fabric of this team too shredded to salvage? 

“Let’s talk Thursday,” Brey said. “I defer to our leadership and our captains. They do have ownership of themselves, but I certainly haven’t been able to help them much. I just told them, I’ve done a horrible job with you, fellas. 

“I thought we would be more ready to compete there., That’s the boss’s responsibility. Totally accountable.” 

Brey banged the table where he sat four times for emphasis — bang, bang, bang, bang! 

Losers of two straight, five of six and seven of nine, Notre Dame will try again Saturday at home against Boston College, which won the first meeting last month in New England. Tip-off is 2 p.m. Somebody might want to remind the Irish to be something for that one that they weren’t for this one.


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


FLORIDA STATE (84): Corhen 4-6 2-2 10, Cleveland 5-10 3-6 14, Da.Green 6-13 4-4 20, Mills 3-6 5-5 11, Warley 4-6 8-10 17, Miller 2-4 0-0 4, Jackson 2-4 0-0 5, McLeod 1-2 0-0 2, De.Green 0-0 1-2 1, House 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 27-53 23-29 84. 

NOTRE DAME (73): Laszewski 2-5 2-2 7, Goodwin 5-11 0-0 11, Ryan 2-7 2-4 6, Starling 5-12 1-2 12, Wertz 5-14 4-4 15, Hammond 7-17 0-0 19, Lubin 0-1 1-2 1, Zona 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-67 10-14 71. 

Halftime: Florida St. 39-29. 3-Point Goals: Florida St. 7-18 (Da.Green 4-8, Jackson 1-1, Warley 1-2, Cleveland 1-3, Miller 0-1, Mills 0-1, House 0-2), Notre Dame 9-32 (Hammond 5-12, Goodwin 1-3, Laszewski 1-3, Starling 1-3, Wertz 1-7, Ryan 0-4). Rebounds: Florida St. 39 (Cleveland 16), Notre Dame 27 (Goodwin 8). Assists: Florida St. 14 (Cleveland 5), Notre Dame 10 (Wertz 5). Total Fouls: Florida St. 13, Notre Dame 18. A: 6,216. 

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