A lot at stake when No. 7 Miami faces slumping Notre Dame
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame is looking to break out of an offensive slump when it faces seventh-ranked Miami in a game that will help decide the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title and tournament seedings.
Less than two weeks ago, the Fighting Irish were averaging 78.2 points and their assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.55 was 10th in the nation and second in the ACC. Notre Dame still was aiming for a league title.
The Irish went 1-2 on their recent three-game road trip, averaging just 62 points with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.88. They also are coming off a 77-56 loss at Florida State where they had season lows in points and field-goal percentage (35.7 percent).
''We just haven't been very efficient offensively,'' coach Mike Brey said. ''You can talk about our defense or our ball-screen defense - and it's been an area where we wanted to improve, and I think we made some progress. But so much is based on our offensive efficiency and we just haven't been as good.''
The Irish (21-8, 10-6 ACC) can clinch a double bye in the league tournament with wins against the Hurricanes (23-5, 12-4) on Wednesday and North Carolina State on Saturday. Miami can clinch at least a share of their second league title in four years with wins against the Irish and Virginia Tech.
Coach Jim Larranaga said the Hurricanes, coming off home wins over No. 4 Virginia and No. 11 Louisville, are where they hoped to be.
''That goal you set way back in the fall is very realistic right now. But you have two very good opponents ahead of us,'' he said.
The Hurricanes dominated the first meeting against the Irish on Feb. 3, taking a 20-point lead en route to a 79-70 victory. But they haven't been quite as dominant on the road as they have been at home and they will be without sixth-man Ja'Quan Newton, who is serving a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules.
Larranaga said Miami will count on starting point guard Angel Rodriguez, who is averaging 11.5 points and 4.4 assists a game, to play more.
Brey said Miami, like Florida State, took advantage of the Irish by continually driving the ball inside. But his concern is more on the offensive end, saying this week in practice he returned to some offensive drills they hadn't used recently.
''I think we have to get back to offensive stuff, passing the ball, getting guys in better positions and just kind of go back to stressing some break-down drills that we do when we're building our offense,'' he said.
Notre Dame point guard Demetrius Jackson said the Irish need to return to the style of play they are known for.
''I think just having more purposeful movement, just being sharp with the ball, keeping it sharp with our cuts, our screens and stuff like that,'' he said.
But he also thinks the Irish need to do a better job defensively against the Hurricanes, who are hitting 47.5 percent of their shots.
''We have to get consecutive stops. Then, also, we have to keep people in front of us and sliding our feet and keeping people out of the lane,'' he said.
The Irish will be seeking to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since finishing the 2013-14 season with three straight losses.