Homecoming for Paul Atkinson Jr. and the ultimate rebounding game, according to Mike Brey.
How about calling Notre Dame’s Wednesday game in Miami exactly what it was: the game that raised the Fighting Irish’s NCAA Tournament hopes inside the Watsco Center?
Boosted by Atkinson’s double-double of 23 points, 11 rebounds and a 24-10 second-half scoring spree, Notre Dame controlled host Miami, 68-64, to secure its 15th overall win and move on. at 8-3 in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
“I think this team was confident,” said Atkinson, a native of West Palm Beach, Fla. “I don’t think anyone was scared. We took a bad ‘L’ on Monday and had to bounce back.
Added senior guard Prentiss Hubb, after a 15-point game in a flat six, “We wanted our extra day in Miami (Thursday) to be a good day, not a bad day with a loss.”
Although only achieved after a dominating second-half effort, the Irish victory was the result of the approach Hubb spoke of; Notre Dame led the game for over 33 minutes.
He held the host Hurricanes (16-5, 8-3 ACC) to 43% shooting in the game and choked them by scoring in the paint with a 44-26 advantage.
The Irishman also commanded a five-rebound advantage on the glass.
“I think it’s because I was really very outspoken and vocal with our guys on Tuesday before we got on the plane,” Ireland coach Mike Brey said. “I said this was the ultimate challenge to bounce back. If you can bounce back in Miami 48 hours after (being outplayed by) Duke, I think you’ve got something. I think this team has leadership and that the ancients were focused on something.
“It’s leadership. This group has a property of itself.
Notre Dame won again in Miami, like it did a year ago, and moved within two wins of securing at least a .500 ledger in ACC play.
Atkinson had 11 of 16 shots from the floor; 48 hours after being shut out, and seeing his streak of 20 consecutive double-digit games broken, Dane Goodwin rebounded with 14 points, including 11 in the first half.
Goodwin helped set the tone, even though he missed his first shot. The Irish senior captain scored five of the team’s first seven points, and his second-half 3-pointer came after the Canes fired within five, 63-58, and under two minutes on the block.
Notre Dame has not lost consecutive games since Nov. 29-Dec. 3, and he won for the 11th time in 13 games after a sluggish start to the season.
“You probably had to get one of these two in the last three days. Let’s be honest,” Brey said, in clear reference to the team’s dreams in the NCAA. “You probably had to get 1 of those 2 to keep your momentum going, and we did. We’ve been back in the mix since… when we were four to five games (in ACC play), I’ve started dropping, ‘Regular Season Champions, Regular Season Champions’ (as a team goal).
“They’re chasing him.”
They stayed alive in this multi-team pursuit despite another night off from rookie Blake Wesley, who has struggled hard from the floor in his last three games and was limited to just five points on the night.
Nate Laszewski had four points and five boards on a return to his home state of Florida; Laszewski is from Jupiter, Florida.
Cormac Ryan added seven points off the bench.
But Hubb’s steady hand and timely offense matched Atkinson’s on the inside. Hubb has now only committed two turnovers in his last 143 minutes on the court in four games.
During that span, Hubb has delivered 16 assists.
“I can’t believe there’s a quarterback playing better than this guy right now,” Brey said of Hubb. “He feels when he has to go for the jugular. …
“He came from quarterbacking us and really helped us.”
Notre Dame has the day off Thursday in Miami, and she will travel to North Carolina State on Saturday before returning home next week against Louisville.