One game at a time: A journey through Notre Dame's 2021-22 men’s basketball season

ND Insider
Nov 13, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; The Notre Dame Fighting Irish sing the Notre Dame Alma Mater after defeating the Cal State Northridge Matadors at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

A running game-by-game breakdown of Notre Dame’s 2021-22 men’s basketball season:

Jan 17, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Blake Wesley (0) dunks the ball against the Howard Bison during the first half at Burr Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

► Game 16: Jan. 17

Notre Dame 71, Howard 68

At Burr Gymnasium, Washington

Record: 11-6 overall; 4-2 ACC

Whoa, that one almost went sideways in a hurry.

But again, get Notre Dame into game situations, and Notre Dame usually gets the win. Up by 11 points with less than three minutes remaining, the Irish weren't expected to scratch and claw and figure it out against Howard. But figure it out they did in a game that wasn't decided until a late Prentiss Hubb layup and missed Howard 3.

Get the win and get home.

Noie:Bigger than basketball? Sure, but win helps

Virginia Tech's Storm Murphy drives around Notre Dame's Dane Goodwin in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Cassell Coliseum, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Blacksburg, Va. (Scott P. Yates/The Roanoke Times via AP)

► Game 16: Jan. 15

Virginia Tech 79, Notre Dame 73

At Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va.

Record: 10-6 overall; 4-2 ACC

Six minutes.

Six minutes and change were all that remained. If Notre Dame could caress its lead and find a way to get to the end, it would get another league road win and end the night tied with Miami (Fla.) for first place in the league.

Big stuff. Turns out, too big.

Notre Dame couldn't get a stop when it needed, couldn't hit a free throw when it needed, couldn't close out a game when a game was there to be closed out. For the first time in 2022 and the first time in 28 days, Notre Dame was left to pick up the pieces and move on after a loss.

Noie:Defense doesn't travel to Blacksburg

Jan 12, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey celebrates in the Notre Dame student section after the win over the Clemson Tigers at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

► Game 15: Jan. 12

Notre Dame 72, Clemson 56

At Purcell Pavilion

Record: 10-5 overall; 4-1 ACC

This one was fun. And, relatively speaking, easy.

Notre Dame trailed only once – 2-0 – and led for 38:18. The Irish made shots. The Irish got stops. They played like a team getting confident in its collective self. By the end of the night, Notre Dame had run its win streak to six, and won for the seventh time in the last eight games.

It was a lot of Dane Goodwin (21 points) and a lot of Blake Wesley (20).

A quarter way through league play, the Irish were 4-1. Mike Brey went to the dining halls the day before the game and stood on the tables to get the student body motivated to watch some hoops. After this one, he went into the stands to thank them.

Think they might be back after this one.

More:Strong start, easy finish for Irish

Notre Dame guard Prentiss Hubb (3) gestures after defeating Georgia Tech in overtime of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

► Game 14: Jan. 8

Notre Dame 72, Georgia Tech 68 (OT)

At McCamish Pavilion, Atlanta

Record: 9-5 overall; 3-1 ACC

Oh, no, there Notre Dame again went in its annual Atlantic Coast Conference visit to Georgia Tech.

McCamish Pavilion has long been too cruel to the Irish. Close games and a lot of league losses since it started visiting midtown Atlanta in 2014. The Irish always found ways to play close games, but never win said close games.

Then this one happened. Overtime was needed and Notre Dame had to hold on for its collective life, but a team that believed coming in now does even more after this one.

This one was big.

Noie:Don't look now, but karma might be changing

Notre Dame's Blake Wesley (0) dunks as North Carolina's Leaky Black (1) watches during the Notre Dame vs. North Carolina NCAA men's basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022 at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.

► Game 13: Jan. 5

Notre Dame 78, North Carolina 73

At Purcell Pavilion

Record: 8-5 overall; 2-1 ACC

Here came another college basketball blueblood to town, and back they left with another loss to Notre Dame.

The Irish ran their win streak to four, and two straight in the league, in a game that they controlled for a good chunk of play. Notre Dame defended. It rebounded. It shared the ball. It made shots. Most importantly, it believed – the old guys believed – that they would find a way.

The Irish found a way.

Noie:The Irish old guys played old

Dec 28, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Prentiss Hubb (3) hits the game winning shot against Pittsburgh Panthers guard Jamarius Burton (11) during the second half at the Petersen Events Center. The Irish won 68-67. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

► Game 12: Dec. 28

Notre Dame 68, Pittsburgh 67

At Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh

Record: 7-5 overall; 1-1 ACC

He had lost his swagger. He has lost his starting job. He had looked a shell of his former self, the guy who was an all-league preseason selection. The deeper Notre Dame worked through the early part of the season, the more everyone wondered, what's wrong with senior point guard/captain Prentiss Hubb?

Hubb downplayed everything, saying he had to just keep working, had to just keep believing, that eventually, it was going to swing back around to where the game would be good for him.

It swung back around at Pittsburgh, and Hubb delivered.

Noie:Prentiss Hubb delivers

Dec 22, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dane Goodwin (23) shoots a three point basket in the first half against the Texas A&M CC Islanders at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

► Game 11: Dec. 22

Notre Dame 83, Texas A&M Corpus Christi 73

At Purcell Pavilion

Record: 6-5 overall; 0-1 ACC

This was supposed to be an easy one. The last game before Christmas break usually comes against an overmatched opponent just happy to collect a check and play a game, however non-competitive, before getting out of town and getting home for the Holidays.

Then this one happened. There was nothing easy about it. It was kind of weird, and as we've seen this year, Notre Dame doesn't do weird very well.

The Irish had to dig in, grind it out and find a way. They dug in. They grinded it out. They found a way.

Noie:Easy does it? Not this one

Dec 20, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Paul Atkinson Jr. (20) dunks in the first half against the Western Michigan Broncos at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

► Game 10: Dec. 20

Notre Dame 85, Western Michigan 52

At Purcell Pavilion

Record: 5-5 overall; 0-1 ACC

This had the makings of a fun one in many ways for Notre Dame. When you see an overmatched opponent on the schedule, you need to take advantage of it, use the game to your advantage.

The Irish did that while getting back to their ball-sharing, shot-making ways. They played 40 minutes as usual in this one, but it was long over before the final horn.

It was a game and an outcome that Notre Dame really needed.

Noie:Easy does it for Notre Dame

Notre Dame guard Blake Wesley (0) fights for a loose ball with Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

► Game 9: Dec. 18

Indiana 64, Notre Dame 56

At Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

Record: 4-5 overall; 0-1 ACC

They knew the deal going into the 11th and final Crossroads Classic at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis.

For the previous game's victory over Kentucky to mean anything – A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G – Notre Dame would have to offer a similar effort and win a similar type of prep against Indiana. Otherwise, it would feel like more of the same from this same group – one step forward, one step (or maybe even two).

After 40 minutes of choppy effort and execution, Notre Dame wound up taking that proverbial step back. So much for building off the momentum and a little bit of magic from the Kentucky win.

Didn't happen. Maybe next time (we've said that a lot).

Noie:Another long day in Indy for the Irish

Fans rushed the court to celebrate following Notre Dame's win over Kentucky in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

► Game 8: Dec. 11

Notre Dame 66, No. 10 Kentucky 62

At Purcell Pavilion

Record: 4-4 overall; 0-1 ACC

It's still early in the season, but it already was getting late for Notre Dame.

When was this group of Irish seniors going to deliver? In a big game? In a close game? In a home game? We'd seen them compete and come close so many times over the last few years that we wondered if they were ever going to do it.

Against Big Blue Nation.

At home.

Notre Dame finally did it, and got it from a freshman. A freshman from South Bend. Big shots were made. Big stops were made. Fans rushed the court at the final horn. It finally felt like a big game again at Purcell Pavilion.

Finally.

Noie:Under bright lights, the Irish finally deliver

More:News, notes and big game win anecdotes

Guard DeMarr Langford Jr. and Boston College had its way with Notre Dame in the teams' Atlantic Coast Conference opener on Dec. 3. It wasn't even close. Ever.

► Game 7: Dec. 3

Boston College 73, Notre Dame 57

At Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

Record: 3-4 overall; 0-1 ACC

It was going to be different this year, or so we were led to believe. It still might be, but based on this one, it's hard to see Notre Dame being any better in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

The Irish actually looked worse. Slow. Uninspired. Sluggish. Unwilling to dig in and compete. It was all that and more.

The last time the Irish played a league game – in March against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament - they trailed by 50 points before a 42-point loss, the most lopsided in the Mike Brey era. The Irish planned to use that loss, that embarrassment, as motivation so when ACC play rolled around in 2021-22, they'd be ready. It would be different.

Then, it was more of the same. 

Noie:Long night, maybe long year ahead for Notre Dame after this one

More:Blake Wesley makes first college start

Nov 29, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Mike Grey yells from the bench during the second half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

► Game 6: Nov. 29

Illinois 82, Notre Dame 72

At State Farm Center, Champaign, Illinois

Record: 3-3

This had to be among one of the strangest nights in Notre Dame men's basketball history – and it had nothing to do what happened on the court or what the scoreboard said or anything else basketball-related.

It was all about football, specifically, the decision a short time before tip by now former Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly to leave for LSU.

Illinois fans chanted Kelly's name and that of his new school from their spot behind the Irish bench. Notre Dame trailed by as many as 16, but made a late run in an electric atmosphere. It wasn't enough, but it may have been enough to build on.

Maybe.

► Recap:Notre Dame not ready for prime time

Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams knew exactly how to beat Notre Dame when the second half of a Maui Jim Maui Invitational game started. The Aggies then went out and did just that.

► Game 5: Nov. 24

Texas A&M 73, Notre Dame 67

At Michelob Ultra Arena, Mandalay Bay,  Las Vegas

Record: 3-2

Up double digits and rolling in the second half, all Notre Dame had to do was put together a second straight solid 20 minutes like it had done earlier, and man, that charter flight through the night would go by in a snap.

Instead, Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams, who knows a thing or two or three about playing Notre Dame, pulled out an old playbook to fluster the Irish.

Notre Dame never had a chance.

► Game recap:After loss to Texas A&M, Notre Dame has little to show for Vegas trip

► Noie: What happened to Notre Dame in Vegas can't stay in Vegas

► Game 4: Nov. 23

Notre Dame 90, Chaminade 67

At Michelob Ultra Arena, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Record: 3-1

The Division II Silverswords were just in the wrong place at the wrong time in this second night matchup in Las Vegas. Notre Dame played the way a team that is bigger and stronger and just flat-out better should play.

It wasn't expected to be close. It wasn't. Turns out it was all the Irish could really salvage from their trip.

► Game recap: After deflating defeat, Notre Dame gets hot against Division II Chaminade

► Game 3: Nov. 22

Saint Mary's 62, Notre Dame 59

At Michelob Ultra Arena, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Record: 2-1

It was age and experience from the Atlantic Coast Conference against age and experience from the West Coast Conference.

The West Coast won.

In the closing minutes of a close game, it was Saint Mary's that figured out ways to make plays to close this one out. Notre Dame's old guys committed turnovers and couldn't close out on a shooter quick enough to figure a way out. Back to the drawing board at Mandalay Bay.

► Game recap: Late night not a good night for Notre Dame in Las Vegas

►Game 2: Nov. 16

Notre Dame 70, High Point 61

At Purcell Pavilion, South Bend

Record: 2-0

There have been times and games and stretches during his career where it seemed Notre Dame senior power forward Nate Laszewski was so concerned about doing what he was touted to do, what he was supposed to do — make shots — that it affected other parts of his game.

Not anymore.

Notre Dame's Nate Laszewski (14) drives against High Point's Caden Sanchez (35) during the Notre Dame vs. High Point NCAA men's basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.

Laszewski hasn't let an inability to consistently score weigh on his game. Like Tuesday, when he couldn't get many shots to fall (4-for-11 from the field, 2-for-5 from 3), but made a difference in other ways. Like a career high 16 rebounds, including 12 on the defensive end.

► Game recap: Way more interesting than anticipated, but Notre Dame handles High Point in hoops

►Game 1: Nov. 13

Notre Dame 68, CS Northridge 53 

At Purcell Pavilion, South Bend

Record: 1-0

Without the work of graduate student power forward Paul Atkinson, Jr., and freshman guard Blake Wesley, Saturday would've looked a lot like last year with a veteran group of Irish doing just enough to win. Or maybe not even that.

Wesley offered the crowd a lot to like, whether it be the baseline drive and two-hand dunk or ability to show his skills in the open court. He scored a team-high 21 points in 28 minutes. Atkinson was the catalyst in the second half while finishing with 16 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes.

► Game recap: What happened in Notre Dame men's basketball opener against CSUN? Here

► Noie: Raw but rare, Notre Dame freshman Blake Wesley is on fast track to start soon

Notre Dame guard Blake Wesley became the first Irish freshman to go for at least 20 points in his first game since guard Chris Thomas scored 24 in 2000. Wesley opened his career with 21 points in Saturday's win over Cal State Northridge.

► Nov. 5 (Exhibition)

Notre Dame 78, St. Norbert 44

At Purcell Pavilion, South Bend

Much has been made about the strides the Irish have needed to make on defense, and rightfully so, but there also will be nights like Friday’s first half when Notre Dame is just going to score. A lot. And from distance. Notre Dame went for 39 points in the first 20 minutes thanks to perimeter shooting. The Irish made nine 3-pointers, which helped bust open a somewhat sluggish start. 

Notre Dame also did Notre Dame stuff on offense with 19 assists on its first 21 baskets. Regardless of what the Irish do on defense, they still can share it. And shoot it. 

► Game recap: News, notes and quotes from second Notre Dame men's basketball exhibition victory

► Oct. 29, 2021 (Exhibition) 

Notre Dame 87, Nazareth College 37 

At Purcell Pavilion, South Bend

The Irish rolled past Nazareth (New York) College, a Division III team. It wasn’t even that close. In the greater scheme of just about everything, this game means nothing. Maybe less than that. But if you look a little closer, drill down and understand where this program was in March — when it trailed by 50 points in its final game — it was a good place to start for a group that has big plans on going places. 

► Noie column: Look beyond lopsided final to see what Notre Dame did well in exhibition opener

Season preview

► A big-picture look at the 2021-22 season for the Notre Dame men's basketball team

Notre Dame needs a big effort from Yale transfer Paul Atkinson if the Irish are to enjoy a big season.

► Noie: Notre Dame wants to get back to NCAA Tournament, right? Better find an Alpha

Is there an alpha dog type of leader in this group? If so, please stand up if Notre Dame wants to break a four-year drought of no NCAA tournament appearances.

2021-22 ND MEN’S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE 

(Purcell Pavilion home games in all caps, all times eastern) 

OCTOBER 

29: NAZARETH COLLEGE (Exhibition), W 87-37

NOVEMBER 

5: ST. NORBERT COLLEGE (Exhibition), W 78-44

13: CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE, W, 68-52

16: HIGH POINT, W, 70-61 

22: Maui Invitational (Las Vegas) vs. Saint Mary’s (Calif.), L, 62-59 

23-24: Maui Invitational (Las Vegas) vs. Chaminade, W, 90-64 

24: Maui Invitational (Las Vegas) vs. Texas A&M, L, 73-67

29 : ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Illinois, L, 82-72. 

DECEMBER 

3: At Boston College, L, 73-57 

11: KENTUCKY, W, 66-62 

18: Crossroads Classic vs. Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, L, 64-56

20: WESTERN MICHIGAN, W, 85-52 

22: TEXAS A&M CORPUS CHRISTI, W, 83-63 

28: At Pittsburgh, W, 68-77 

JANUARY 

1: DUKE, ppd (rescheduled to Jan. 31) 

5: NORTH CAROLINA, W, 78-73 

8: At Georgia Tech, W, 72-68 (OT)

12: CLEMSON, W, 72-56 

15: At Virginia Tech, L, 79-736 p.m. 

17: At Howard, W, 71-68.

22: At Louisville, 4 p.m. 

26: N.C. STATE, 9 p.m. 

29: VIRGINIA, 6 p.m. 

FEBRUARY 

2: At Miami (Fla.), 7 p.m. 

5: At N.C. State, 3 p.m. 

9: LOUISVILLE, TBA 

12: At Clemson, 7 p.m. 

16: BOSTON COLLEGE, 7 p.m. 

19: At Wake Forest, 1 p.m. 

22: SYRACUSE, 9 p.m. 

26: GEORGIA TECH, 5 p.m. 

MARCH 

2: At Florida State, 7 p.m. 

5: PITTSBURGH, 8 p.m. 

Roster

No. | Player | Position | Height | Weight | Class | Hometown | High school Previous school (if applicable)

0 | Blake Wesley | Guard | 6-5 | 185 | Freshman | South Bend | Riley

1 | J.R. Konieczny | Guard | 6-6 | 195 | Freshman | South Bend | Saint Joseph

2 | Trey Wertz | Guard | 6-5 | 192 | Charlotte, N.C. | Providence Day School | Santa Clara

3 | Prentiss Hubb | Guard | 6-3 | 176 | Upper Marlboro, Md. | Gonzaga

4 | Alex Wade | Guard | 6-0 | 166 | San Diego | Cathedral Catholic

5 | Cormac Ryan | Guard | 6-5 | 194 | New York | Milton Academy | Stanford

12 | Tony Sanders Jr. | Guard | 6-7 | 209 | Miami | Gulliver Prep

14 | Nate Laszewski | Forward | 6-10 | 235 | Jupiter, Fla. | Northfield Mount Herman

20 | Paul Atkinson Jr. | Forward | 6-9 | 230 | West Palm Beach, Fla. | Westminster Academy | Yale

22 | Elijah Taylor | Forward | 6-8 | 242 | Philadelphia | Imhotep Charter

23 | Dane Goodwin | Guard | 6-6 | 208 | Upper Arlington, Ohio | Upper Arlington

24 | Robby Carmody | Guard | 6-4 | 202 | Mars, Pa. | Mars

25 | Matt Zona | Forward | 6-9 | 240 | Blauvelt, N.Y. | Bergen Catholic (N.J.)

31 | Elijah Morgan | Guard | 6-1 | 169 | New Orleans | Jesuit