|Notre Dame hopes to have answer for Miami|
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey says his Irish had "no answer" for the intensity Miami's veteran club displayed in sweeping both meetings of the two teams last season.
"I think we have been treated kind of like boys," he said, "because we weren't able to step up to that."
But the roles will be reversed when the 20th-ranked Irish (14-2, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) and unranked Hurricanes (11-3, 1-1 ACC) square off Thursday in Coral Gables. Tipoff time for the nationally telecast affair (ESPN) is 7 p.m. ET.
"Now we're a little bit older, a little more experienced," Brey said, "and our challenge is to meet that intensity on the road on Thursday."
Brey will start two seniors and three juniors as the Irish go for a sixth consecutive win. It's a group that not only is more mature, but key players like leading scorer and rebounder forward Bonzie Colson (16.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg), senior guard Steve Vasturia (15.0 ppg), senior forward V.J. Beachem (14.6), and junior guard Matt Farrell (14.0) have been honed by the experience of back-to-back runs to the "Elite Eight" of the NCAA Tournament.
The Irish have been overpowering foes with an offense that averages over 82 points a game and shoots 47 percent from the field overall and over 40 percent from 3-point range, the latter tops in the ACC.
Vasturia is 32-of-74 (43.2 percent from behind the arc and Farrell 33-of-79 (41.8), and they don't even lead the team. Sophomore guard Matt Ryan has hit 26 of his 55 long-range tries (47.3 percent) of the bench.
"Those guys are so proficient offensively they can come down the floor and shoot from 30 feet and it's a good shot," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "Or they can drive to the basket and they've got a contested layup and it's still a good shot.
"Most teams don't have the offensive skills that Notre Dame's team has."
Larranaga will counter with a lineup that features two freshmen, guard Bruce Brown (10.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and forward Dewan Huell (7.1 ppg); a junior, guard Ja'Quan Newton (15.2 ppg); and two seniors, guard/forward Davon Reed (14.0 ppg) and forward Kamari Murphy (7.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
The Hurricanes are coming off a 15-point loss at Syracuse but have won 21 in a row at home dating back to a 78-77 loss to Northeastern on Nov. 27, 2015. They are 8-0 at home this season, including an 81-63 win over North Carolina State in their league opener, and have won their last 11 ACC outings at the Watsco Center.
It will be the only home game for the Hurricanes over a stretch of five games including last week's loss at Syracuse. They are at Pittsburgh Saturday and at Wake Forest and Duke after that.
The Irish are playing the first of three consecutive road games with a trip to Virginia Tech Saturday and Florida State next Wednesday.
"This is tough stretch for us," Brey said.