February 20, 2015

Time is running out in the ACC race, and the conference's leading team is playing a seemingly favorable schedule.

That means any loss for second-place Notre Dame could damage its regular-season title hopes, and a slip-up against the league's last-place squad would prove especially devastating.

The 10th-ranked Fighting Irish had to fend off a rally to beat visiting Boston College earlier this month and will try for a more complete performance Saturday.

Notre Dame (23-4, 11-3) is two back in the loss column on Virginia, whose next three opponents are a combined 13-28 in the conference. Wins in those games would give the Cavaliers at least a share of their second straight regular-season title.

The Irish stayed within striking distance in the standings with an 88-75 win over visiting Wake Forest on Tuesday. They showed some rust from a week off, missing 11 of their first 12 shots in a 40.3 percent performance, but made 27 of 28 from the free-throw line and 11 of 26 from 3-point range.

Jerian Grant led the way with 24 points, 10 assists and a season high-tying five steals.

"We focus on not having a letdown. It is extremely important to us because we are still chasing an ACC regular-season title, so we cannot have any letdowns from here on out," Grant said. "We want to play all-out every game."

Notre Dame looked like it was cruising to an easy win over Boston College (9-16, 1-12) on Feb. 4, leading by 25 with five minutes to go in the first half. The Eagles, though, managed to cut that lead down to six in the final 2 1/2 minutes before the Irish came away with a 71-63 victory.

Steve Vasturia had 17 points in Notre Dame's eighth win in the past nine matchups. The Irish won 73-69 in their last visit to Boston College on Feb. 16, 2014, with Grant suspended due to academic issues.

Pat Connaughton had six of his team-leading 17 points in the final six minutes to help hold off the Eagles.

The most recent loss to Notre Dame is one of seven in a row for BC, its longest skid since a 12-gamer in 1999-2000. The Eagles, who fell 69-60 at Florida State on Wednesday, are on the verge of matching their six-game home losing streak from that same season despite Olivier Hanlan's recent stellar efforts.

The ACC leader with 18.6 points per game, Hanlan has scored 32 in each of the last two contests and is averaging 27.6 in five this month.

"He thinks the game the right way. He attacks the game the right way. He plays the game the right way and works at the game the right way," coach Jim Christian said. "He wants to be a great player every day. I'm just amazed by his demeanor. Nothing gets to him. He just competes every possession."

Hanlan scored 28 in the first meeting while going 11 for 16 from the field and 6 for 9 from beyond the arc.

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