Back in the win column
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish took one more L in a difficult road matchup before finally getting back in the win column at home this weekend. It continues to be tough sledding for the Irish in conference play, but this week at least saw a sign of life and some potential building blocks for the future under Micah Shrewsberry. Let’s get into it:
Duke Blue Devils 71, Notre Dame 53
The Irish provided a very hospitable homecoming to a Blue Devils squad coming off a devastating loss to arch-rival North Carolina. The ninth-ranked Dukies effortlessly held off Notre Dame’s floundering offensive attack and abused the Irish on the offensive boards, allowing them to lead by double digits almost the entire game despite mediocre shooting output (43.3% from the field).
Markus Burton once again paced the Irish in scoring with 19 points. If there is one constant this season it is Burton consistently giving the only individual performance worth mentioning, but that performance was again one-dimensional as the Irish were unable to generate a dynamic team offense.
Notre Dame 74, Virginia Tech Hokies 66
Flipping the script in several critical ways, Notre Dame held off a determined Hokies squad to win at home for the first time since December of 2023. The Irish overcame a slow first half in which they scarcely led with a powerful and, in a new development, multifaceted offensive attack in the second. Down by nine with just over a minute left in the first half, the Irish went on a 14-0 run that spanned the late first and early second halves and put them in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game.
While Burton and Braeden Shrewsberry once again paced the Irish with 16 and 12 points respectively, the best news was a breakout game from forward Kebba Njie (11 points, 6 rebounds). The 6’10” sophomore transfer gave the Irish a threat down low that they hadn’t had in weeks prior, which in turn created more opportunities for Notre Dame’s scorers outside. If Njie can continue scoring and creating second chances for the Irish offense, this team could have a lot more opportunities to put points on the board.
A few other observations from this pair of contests:
- The Irish continue to be outstanding in defense of the perimeter, holding Duke and VT to 22% and 33% respectively from beyond the arc.
- Saturday’s game was probably the first complete point-guard performance from Burton, who functioned as a true facilitator of the entire team and not merely a scorer (eight assists as well as six steals).
- Saturday also saw Coach Shrewsberry roll out a heftier lineup than Irish fans have been used to seeing in recent years, with three forwards (Njie, Carey Booth and Tae Davis) in the starting lineup and past starting guards Logan Imes and J.R. Konieczny on the bench.
- Seeming to validate Shrewsberry’s decision, Imes bounced back from a terrible performance as a starter against Duke with a solid relief effort on Saturday, notching 7 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. This is an interesting case study in Coach Shrewsberry continuing to figure out just what he has in this young team, with starters and role players-to-be alike finding their niches.
The Irish will have a chance to build on Saturday’s win with a home matchup against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Wednesday, followed by a weekend off.