Despite Notre Dame’s status as a power conference school annually welcoming mid-major foes to Purcell Pavilion, there was nothing easy about the Fighting Irish’s season-opening game against Radford on Thursday night.
Head coach Mike Brey expects more of the same Sunday afternoon when Notre Dame is slated to host Youngstown State in South Bend, Ind.
Notre Dame dodged an upset bid by Radford after Cormac Ryan’s layup with 9.5 seconds left completed a comeback from a nine-point second-half deficit. That gave the Fighting Irish the lead for good in what ended up being a 79-76 win.
Youngstown State earned its second straight win to start the season with a 90-72 victory over Tennessee-Martin on Wednesday.
The Fighting Irish couldn’t fully exhale until the buzzer Thursday night. After Ryan’s go-ahead basket, Josiah Jeffers missed a layup for Radford with two seconds left before Nate Laszewski drained a pair of free throws.
Laszewski finished with a career-high 28 points and added 12 rebounds for the Fighting Irish, who played just six players with guard Marcus Hammond sidelined with a knee injury.
Brey didn’t have much time to relax following the game. Youngstown State, which beat Canisius 92-81 in its season opener on Monday, has scored at least 90 points in consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 18-21, 2018, when the Penguins fell to Florida International 102-93 and beat non-Division I Westminster (Pa.) 104-66.
Youngstown State was picked to finish fifth in the Horizon League and was one of six schools to receive at least one first-place vote in the preseason poll.
“Youngstown State has a chance to win their league,” Brey said. “It gets you ready for ACC play. I get all that, but it was more for the math of strength of schedule.”
Malek Green (16.5 points, 10.0 rebounds) is averaging a double-double through two games for Youngstown State, which has six players averaging at least seven points per game.
“We’ve got a lot of room for improvement, but the hardest team to guard is a team that can run,” Youngstown State head coach Jerrod Calhoun said Wednesday night. “So how do you run? You’ve got to get stops. And if this team could continue to get stops, we can wear teams down. We can play 10, 11, 12, 13 guys.”
Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Youngstown State 3-0. The host Fighting Irish earned an 87-78 victory in the most recent meeting between the schools on Dec. 21, 2015.
–Field Level Media