FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame coach Mike Brey’s message to his basketball team is simple – Just keep playing.
The Irish have had nearly every bounce go against them this season.
Leading scorer Jerian Grant was suspended just days before the start of ACC play. Sophomore forward Austin Burgett has dealt with an irregular heartbeat in the last few weeks. And freshman guard Demetrius Jackson, the jewel of the last recruiting class, was sat down to get his academic work back in order.
And that’s just some of the drama away from the court, where the Irish have lost eight of 11 after starting conference play by upsetting then-No. 7 Duke 79-77 on Jan. 4 and have yet to win an ACC road game.
A lot hits you all in one year, but we still have seven games guaranteed left, Brey said. We are going to exhaust them and play them out. We will keep moving forward and finish this thing.
Notre Dame will have three chances to get its first conference road win starting today when the Irish (13-12, 4-8) take on Boston College (6-18, 2-9), which they defeated 76-73 in overtime Feb. 1 at home.
We’d like to get a win on the road, Brey said. We’ve been in all of them. Every one of them we’ve had our chances on the road, which has been frustrating. We talked the other night after the game about, let’s try to win two in a row in this league. One-and-one weeks ain’t bad for this team right now, but let’s try and get greedy and get a 2-0 week.
But it will not be an easy travel schedule for the Irish, who take on Miami at 9 p.m. Wednesday then travel to play Virginia at 2 p.m. Saturday.
We’ve never had a week like that, Brey said. That’s a lot of travel. That’s a lot of distance. We will pace them the right way.
Brey has to worry pacing his players because he is running out of options.
Along with not having Grant and Jackson and Burgett working his way back into shape after surgery, the Irish are without Eric Katenda, who is sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury, according to Brey.
That leaves the Irish with eight scholarship players and the prospect of having to use Austin Torres, who hasn’t played this year, in an emergency situation.
The Irish caught a break as leading scorer and rebounder Garrick Sherman will be able to play with an injured finger on his right hand taped instead of having surgery.
What we’ve tried to do is the day after games we have been very light, Brey said. For example, we’ll play Sunday night (and then) Monday we can’t go very long. We try and stretch them out. We really don’t go live – you do a lot of five-on-zero, and then Tuesday you can go.