The Miami Hurricanes needed a bit of a bounce-back following their loss over the weekend to NC State.
Safe to say that mission was accomplished Wednesday.
Jim Larranaga’s group came back home and held their home floor against a tough opponent in Notre Dame, and did so rather easily with a convincing 79-70 win that was not as close as the final score indicated.
The No. 17 Hurricanes (17-4, 6-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) got a well-rounded performance with players reaching double-figures, including Anthony Lawrence’s team-high 18 points. Angel Rodriguez also sliced and diced his way through the ugly Notre Dame defense to put up 12 points and five assists. Rodriguez and the rest of the Miami guards basically got to whatever spot they wanted on the floor, and converted at a scorching 54.3 percent clip from the field while also only turning the ball over seven times.
It was a terrific performance from the Canes, but also pointed to a lot of the problems that Notre Dame has going forward for the rest of the season. The Irish defense was ranked 222nd in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom coming into the night, and Miami’s 1.23 points per possession Wednesday isn’t exactly going to make that any better. Miami repeatedly put the Notre Dame big men into pick-and-roll situations, and the Irish could not do anything to slow down the Hurricane guards from getting into the paint. Then, once they got into the paint, there was precious little resistance at the rim, as the Canes went a scorching 15 of 23 within eight feet of the basket.
Miami is a good team, and we know that. There’s not really much to take away from the performance. However, if Notre Dame (15-7, 6-4) wants to reach that level this season and even make the NCAA Tournament, it’s going to have to shore up the defensive side of the ball. The Irish’s next three games are a home game against North Carolina, a road game at Clemson and a home game against Louisville. This is the four-game stretch that is going to tell the tale of the season for Mike Brey and the Irish, and it’s tough to come away feeling positive about the first test.
Will they bloom like they did last season with Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton around, or will the defense fail to pick up the slack for one of the best offenses in the country? We’re about to find out over the next two weeks.