Notre Dame-Miami faceoff in pivotal ACC road game
By Julio Salazar | Staff Writer
February 3, 2016
CORAL GABLES, FLA – The University of Notre Dame will start a tough month of conference road games at BankUnited Center on the campus of the University of Miami Tuesday night (7 PM/ESPN2). Currently, the #17 Hurricanes are riding an 8-game home win streak in what has proven to be an historic and exciting season in Miami basketball. Last season, Notre Dame beat Miami twice (@ Notre Dame, in the ACC Tournament) behind senior leaders Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, now NBA talents.
However, that senior experience now seems to be advantage Miami, “We have seniors in Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, Tonye Jekiri who we felt like had the skill, the mind-set and the experience to be good senior leaders and they are in the starting lineup,” coach Jim Larrañaga said. “Kamari Murphy has earned that other starting position along with Davon Reed, who has basically been a starter for three years so we have a lot of experience.”
Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste is the only Irish senior to have started in every game this season. In anticipation for this tough matchup against Miami’s seasoned veterans, alongside a looming North Carolina, Coach Mike Brey entered senior captain AJ Burgett into the starting rotation Sunday night, where he saw a season high minutes and points in the game against Wake Forest. Wake Forest also saw the return of Irish star Demetrius Jackson, who was sat out in a loss against Syracuse because of a pulled hamstring. Jackson had 14 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and a career-high six steals.
Miami’s average victory margin in four ACC home games is 12.8 points. Miami has connected on 359-of-471 (76.2%) shots at the free throw line, while opponents have just 353 attempts at the charity stripe. UM averages 18.0 points per game at the line, and has posted a +12.8 scoring margin this season. Miami ranks ninth in the nation in free throw percentage and No. 67 in free throws made. The Canes have drawn 397 fouls, while committing only 347, which ranks UM No. 26 in the country in fewest fouls. Senior guard Sheldon McClellan has posted the 12th-best shooting percentage (51.7%) in the country among guards, and has the top shooting percentage among guards in the ACC, according to stats on NCAA.org on Jan. 31. Angel Rodriguez is now one of only three active Division I players with at least 1,200 career points, 450 assists, 180 steals and 150 3-pointers. (hurricanesports.com)
The Irish boast the second-most efficient offense in the country, behind Duke, according to the Pomeroy Adjusted Offense index. Wednesday marks the 19th meeting between Notre Dame and Miami. The Irish lead the all-time series 10-8 and are 4-4 on the Hurricane’s home court. Demetrius Jackson is averaging 19.3 points in his last seven full games played in 2016 (excludes Boston College and Syracuse). Over that same stretch, he has averaged 6.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. Senior forward Zach Auguste averages 10.1 rebounds per game – good for third in the ACC and 20th in the country. Auguste also is fifth in the ACC in field goal percentage (.542) and has posted 12 double-doubles this season. (UND.com)
Each team’s biggest test will be defense, as both the Irish and Hurricane offenses will score points. If Demetrius Jackson can have a similar game against Miami as he did against Wake Forest (particularly in steals), ND will have an advantage. Notre Dame will also look for Zach Auguste to record his 21st double-double, as rebounding on both sides of the court will be crucial keys to the game. Notre Dame will also have to convert on the few opportunities for free throws Miami gives and hope that charity points don’t go in for the Hurricanes. Even though Coach Brey is 4-1 against Miami while at Notre Dame, the one loss came at Miami in the inaugural Irish season in the ACC. This is a crucial game for each team for many reasons: Miami hopes to bounce back after an ugly loss to NC State, while also hoping to build its resume, pass ND in the ACC standings, and climb the rankings. Notre Dame will try to build momentum in anticipation for the primetime matchup against UNC (Sat. 7 PM/ESPN), while keeping control of their destiny in the ACC and in the bracketology for the NCAA Tournament.
“Miami is a confident team, they’ve played together for a while,” Coach Brey said. “They’re men, they’re older, they really have the ability to score the ball. We’re going to have to be really good and really mentally and physically tough on Wednesday.”