Though rumors had swirled of senior guard Chris Lykes’ potential return to the Hurricanes lineup on Sunday, Miami had to face a Notre Dame team it lost to by double figures at home on Jan. 24 without its Preseason All-ACC nominee.
Guard Earl Timberlake (shoulder) also sat out and will remain sidelined for the remainder of the season due to a diagnosed condition that “requires a lot of rest,” according to Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga. The Maryland native will not begin preparing for next season until approximately April.
Notre Dame (8-10, 5-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) closed the contest on a 7-0 run ignited by forward Nate Laszewski, a candidate for the conference’s Most Improved Player award this season. Guard Trey Wertz added five-straight points in the final three minutes.
Forward Nikola Djogo scored 18 points and corralled seven rebounds, Laszewski added 14 points, and Notre Dame defeated Miami (7-12, 3-11 ACC) on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion (South Bend, Ind.) for its second-straight win, 71-61.
Converting on each their final five field goals, the Fighting Irish maintained a 10-point advantage down the stretch. Notre Dame outrebounded UM 45-42, while scoring 38 points in the paint.
“Notre Dame is such a proficient 3-point shooting team, but tonight we did a much better job than we’ve done,” Larrañaga said. “They ended up shooting 24 percent from three but scored in a lot of different ways and I thought we had some great looks, and we didn’t shoot the three very well. With four minutes to go it was a winnable game; they finished very, very strong and we missed a couple of layups right at the time when we had fallen behind.”
Sophomore guard Isaiah Wong, the Canes’ highest-scoring guard averaging 16 points per game since entering the starting lineup last season, converted on two-straight 3-point shots to give his team a one-point lead, 11-10, five minutes into the contest.
Miami then initiated a 6-0 run behind a Kameron McGusty layup and two straight jumpers from Walker, who entered the game averaging 8.1 points per game, and totaled 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought he played very hard at both ends tonight,” said Larrañaga on Walker’s double-double performance.
Enduring a nearly five-and-a-half minute scoring drought, the Canes cooled off while the Irish heated up from the field to create a 7-0 run of their own. Miami remained scoreless on 32 percent shooting in the final three-and-a-half minutes of the first half, and Notre Dame tied up the contest at 31.
Djogo capped off a 6-0 burst for Notre Dame with a fast break layup to open the second half, as he eventually scored nine in those 20 minutes.
Walker answered with a triple, though Djogo did just the same. Olaniyi then sliced to the rim for a backdoor layup to reduce the deficit to four, 43-39. Miami struggled from the foul line remained apparent, nonetheless, having shot 12-of-21.
“It’s very, very frustrating,” Larrañaga said. “Guys do a good job of getting fouled and then you don’t cash in at the foul line. There’s not much you can do or say; we have some guys who are good free throw shooters, and we got several guys who are not. Unfortunately, the guys who are not great free throw shooters were the guys getting fouled.”
Both teams traded baskets for five consecutive minutes until Laszewski converted on an and-one. Miami pulled within one point off of a Wong layup, but could not establish the necessary momentum to take another lead.
Laszewski continued to push the Fighting Irish with seven consecutive points to extend the Notre Dame lead to five, 59-54. The Canes remained scoreless for almost three minutes as Walker later committed an offensive foul.
“We ran a play for him at the end and he ended up turning it over and that was unfortunate because if he had gotten to the basket, I think he would have scored,” Larrañaga said.
Wertz, a Santa Clara transfer, added to the Irish 12-2 run by scoring a layup and followed with a three. Laszewski tacked on a layup along the right baseline upon breaking the Miami press, and Dane Goodwin iced the contest with an open 3-point field goal on the right wing. The Canes did not erase the 10-point spread.
Miami will return to Coral Gables, Florida, for a two-game homestand, as Lykes may return depending on the status of his ankle.
The Canes will play Georgia Tech on Saturday at noon, as the game will be broadcast on your regional sports network.