Notre Dame coach Mike Brey is extremely wary of a well-rested No. 14 Miami in a return to Atlantic Coast Conference play on Friday afternoon in South Bend, Ind.
Those rested Hurricanes (12-1, 3-0 ACC), who have won eight straight games, are set to visit the Fighting Irish (8-5, 0-2), whose only conference games so far were both one-point losses to Syracuse and Florida State.
Brey, speaking after Notre Dame’s 59-43 win over Jacksonville on Tuesday, immediately referenced Miami in his postgame comments.
“We will be ultimately challenged on Friday with (Miami’s) guards,” Brey said. “This is one heck of an offensive group rolling in here.”
Indeed, Hurricanes guard Isaiah Wong ranks sixth in the ACC in scoring (17.2 points per game). Wong is also fourth in the league in steals (1.8) and is seventh in assists (4.5).
The Hurricanes also boast the ACC’s third-best rebounder in Norchad Omier (9.8). The 6-foot-7 forward, also is averaging 13.5 points and leads Miami in field-goal percentage (61.1), in a mark that is second best in the conference.
Among Miami’s regular six-man rotation, Bensley Joseph leads the team in 3-point percentage (45.7) and adds 6.5 points off the bench.
“Bensley also defends very well,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said.
The other key Hurricanes players are 6-6 wing Jordan Miller, 6-foot point guard Nijel Pack and 6-5 shooting guard Wooga Poplar.
Miller is second on Miami in scoring (14.8), and he’s making 62.1 percent of his two-point shots. Pack is averaging 11.2 points, and Poplar is scoring at a clip of 7.9.
Miami hasn’t played since a 66-64 win over sixth-ranked Virginia on Dec. 20 after Wednesday’s game against Vermont was canceled because of travel-related issues.
Notre Dame, which beat 20th-ranked Michigan State earlier this season, dialed in its defense against Jacksonville. Notre Dame forced a season-high 17 turnovers and an opponent to the lowest point total since the 2014-2015 season.
“We were better in our man-to-man defense,” Brey said. “But we’re still a work in progress.”
All five Notre Dame starters are scoring in double figures on average: 6-10 center Nate Laszewski (14.3); 6-4 combo guard JJ Starling (13.1); 6-5 wing Cormac Ryan (12.5); 6-6 wing Dane Goodwin (11.2); and 6-5 point guard Trey Wertz (10.0).
Starling, a five-star recruit, is the highest-rated freshman of the 22-year Brey Era at Notre Dame.
“He’s getting more comfortable,” Brey said. “He’s improved defensively. He’s moving the ball. I’m excited with where he’s at.”
Laszewski leads the team in rebounds (7.7) and is shooting 66.1 percent on 2-pointers and 40.4 percent on 3-pointers. Goodwin is shooting 45.5 percent on 3-pointers, and Ryan is shooting 42.9 percent from deep. Wertz leads the team in assists (3.7) and steals (1.2).
The team’s sixth man is Niagara transfer Marcus Hammond, who is just back from injury. He is averaging 6.3 points and is shooting 41.2 percent from deep.
Hammond had a season-high and team-high 15 points against Jacksonville, making 6 of 11 shots from the floor, including 3 of 7 on 3-pointers.
“We need Marcus in his pre-injury form,” Brey said of Hammond, who has missed seven games this season. “He is a scorer, really gifted.”
–Field Level Media