Wake tries to extend Notre Dame’s historically bad season

When Wake Forest visited Notre Dame three Saturdays ago, the Demon Deacons needed a win in the worst way. They had lost four in a row and all NCAA Tournament dreams were slipping away.

Wake Forest needed 10 minutes to get rolling in South Bend before racing to a 81-64 victory that triggered a three-game winning streak. But now that the Demon Deacons (17-11, 9-8 ACC) are dealing with another two-game slide, they need another win over Notre Dame (10-18, 2-15) in the worst way today — this time in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes understands his team needs to tighten things up — especially after allowing a combined 186 points in their last two games against Miami and North Carolina State.

“We don’t defend,” Forbes said after Wednesday’s 90-74 loss at NC State. “We’re not a great defensive team. That’s no secret. That’s why we’re not an NCAA Tournament team right now … we’re as good an offensive team as there is in the (ACC). No doubt about that. But you have to do other things.”

Notre Dame learned how good Wake Forest can be offensively on Feb. 4 when junior Damari Monsanto set career-highs with 28 points on 8 of 13 shooting from 3-point range. Likely all-ACC point guard Tyree Appleby added 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

Because Wake Forest ranks right around 80th in the NET and KenPom metrics, Wake Forest’s essentially has little or no chance to reach its first NCAA Tournament since 2017 unless it wins the ACC Tournament.

“We have to win these next few at home,” Forbes said. “Go on the road at Syracuse and then we go into the ACC Tournament and see what happens.”

Notre Dame, meanwhile, wants to avoid its first 20-loss season since a 12-20 showing in 1990-91 — Digger Phelps’ 20th and final year at the helm.

The Irish, currently on a six-game losing streak, need to sweep their last three regular-season games (or win the ACC and NCAA championships) to avoid such a fate. If they lose all three – including a home game against Pittsburgh on Wednesday and a trip to Clemson next Saturday — they would match the school record of most losses in a season (21, 1966).

Since falling to Wake Forest on Feb. 4, the Irish have lost by 2, 6, 4, 2 and 4.

“I feel for our guys because we keep getting into position, but we can’t finish,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, before joking that he’d summon sports psychologists to work with his players sitting on 15 different couches. “It becomes very mental, no question about it.”

–Field Level Media