SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Mike Brey doesn’t pay much attention to the NBA draft stock of opposing players, but the Notre Dame coach does hear his own staff’s assessments and, on Monday night, he saw nothing from Miami’s Lonnie Walker IV that would make him disbelieve the latest assessment.
“Walker’s shots were pro stuff,” Brey said after the freshman led the Hurricanes to a 77-74 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over the Irish. “He’s a first-round guy, my assistants told me, and he looked it tonight. He made some money tonight.”
Walker scored 19 points, hitting 5 of 7 from 3-point range, and his deep 3 gave Miami the lead for good as the Hurricanes rode a late 13-0 burst in a matchup of teams scrambling to make the NCAA Tournament field.
The Canes (19-8, 8-7) trailed by five with 7:51 to go before their decisive run over a span of five-plus minutes to snap a season-high three-game skid.
“That’s a terrific road victory for us,” Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga said. “Both teams battled; a very competitive game. We played terrific to end the first half with an eight-point lead (actually nine at 38-29), then Notre Dame played great to take the lead in the second half.”
The Irish (16-12, 6-9) saw their deficit reach 45-35 shortly after the break before beginning a charge that put them up 62-57.
Walker, though, proved deadly in the 13-0 run. His triple from the left wing gave Miami the lead for good at 65-62 and he followed that with a fading, contested 17-footer as the shot clock expired.
The Canes’ Ebuka Izundu, starting for the first time all season, was 7-of-8 shooting and finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. He had 10 points, six boards and all of his steals and blocks after halftime.
“I thought Ebuka Izundu really stepped up for us, made some shots,” Larranaga said of the 6-foot-10 junior who was averaging just 4.5 points and 3.4 rebounds going in.
Ja’Quan Newton added 12 points and eight rebounds for Miami, which confounded the ND defense with 53-percent shooting.
“Every time we went zone, they hit a couple 3s,” Brey said after the Canes finished 9 of 19 outside the arc, “and then you go back to man and they hit putbacks. We’ve been a pretty good defensive team. The numbers say it, (but) we could not defend them like we’ve been defending. They’ve got a lot of athletic ability.”
Martinas Geben led the Irish with 19 points and seven rebounds. Matt Farrell added 16 points, six boards and six assists. T.J. Gibbs scored all of his 11 points after the break.
Notre Dame, adding to its array of injuries this season, played for the first time without regular Rex Pflueger, who injured his back in Saturday’s win at Boston College.
Brey said he expects Pflueger to be back and start in ND’s next game.
The Irish also are eagerly anticipating the Feb. 28 return of Bonzie Colson. The senior, averaging 21.4 points and 10.4 rebounds, has missed the last 14 games with a broken foot.
ND’s gone 5-9 without him.
Freshman D.J. Harvey has missed the last nine games with a knee injury.
The Hurricanes continue to be without sophomore guard Bruce Brown, expected to be sidelined another three weeks after undergoing left foot surgery on Feb. 1.
Brown was averaging 11.4 points and leading Miami in rebounds (7.1) and assists (4.0) when he was injured Jan. 29.
Without him, the Canes have used a variety of lineups in ACC play. Izundu became the eighth different starter Monday.
Miami: The Hurricanes boosted their NCAA Tournament hopes. Among their three remaining regular-season games, they host Boston College after losing to the Eagles 72-70 two weeks ago, then travel to No. 10 North Carolina.
Notre Dame: ND’s perilous NCAA Tourney hopes were dealt a major blow. The best the Irish can finish in the ACC is 9-9, and that would require a win at No. 1 Virginia. A year ago, when a league-record nine teams made the field, Wake Forest got in at 9-9, although Syracuse did not at 10-8.
Notre Dame: The Irish visit Wake Forest (3-12 ACC) on Saturday, before welcoming Pittsburgh (0-15) for the regular-season home finale on Feb. 28.
Miami: The Hurricanes host Boston College (6-8 ACC) on Saturday in the second meeting between the teams in two weeks.