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Prister’s Key Three

Since a 0-of-5 three-point shooting game against Virginia, V.J. Beachem has converted 25-of-58 three-pointers (43.1 percent) in the last seven games.

BEACHEM ABLAZE

Senior V.J. Beachem’s 27 points more than doubled Notre Dame’s other three players in double figures in the 81-72 victory over N.C. State Saturday at PNC Arena in Raleigh.

His 7-of-12 shooting from three-point range set a personal record, eclipsing his six made in three previous games in his career.

“I was just in a good rhythm and was able to keep it going,” Beachem said.

“Honestly, I love playing in this arena. It’s one of my favorite arenas to play in. I like the backdrop. It’s kind of dark and the rim is pretty loose.”

Beachem has liked all the backdrops and rims in recent weeks, connecting on 25-of-58 three-pointers (43.1 percent) in seven ACC games since a 0-of-5 home game against Virginia.

“V was feeling it, man,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey. “He’s really been on a roll for us. I think the closer he gets to March, the better he plays because we know he’s pretty darn good in March. Last year, he was off the charts in March.”

Five of Beachem’s seven three-pointers came in the second half. His trey with 14:18 remaining gave the Irish their largest lead of the afternoon – 23 points – at 59-36.

The Wolfpack sliced into Notre Dame’s advantage, narrowing that deficit to seven points with less than two minutes remaining. But Beachem’s seventh three-pointer of the game with 3:40 left gave the Irish a 14-point lead and enough of a cushion to withstand N.C. State’s late flurry.

Due largely to Beachem’s hot shooting, the Irish (21-7, 10-5) finished 13-of-30 (43.3 percent) from beyond the arc while the Irish defense limited the Wolfpack (14-14, 3-12) to just 3-of-14 three-point shooting (21.4 percent).

“One of the things we do, no matter who we play, is really chase people off the arc,” Brey said. “The way they get back in it and maybe beat us is if they make a number of three-point shots.

“Yeah, they were scoring in the second half. But they were twos. We’re so efficient on the offensive end that it’s kind of hard to catch us. But if you give up threes, the whole thing changes.”

N.C. State converted 18-of-28 second-half field-goal attempts (64.2 percent), but managed just 2-of-4 from beyond the arc after missing nine of 10 three-point attempts in the first half.

“We were really good at BC the other night chasing them off the (three-point) line, and we were really good at chasing the State shooters off the line, which gave us enough of a gap to finish,” Brey said.

Steve Vasturia helped close the game out by nailing all four free-throw attempts in the final minute. Notre Dame finished 10-of-12 from the line and continues to lead the nation with an 81.2 percentage.

DOUBLE-BYE TERRITORY

Notre Dame’s four-game winning streak – coupled with the expected attrition of the ACC frontrunners down the stretch – has suddenly pushed the Irish back into double-bye territory for the ACC tournament.

Fourteen days earlier, the Irish sunk to 6-5 in the conference and even a single-bye appeared to be in jeopardy.

Only three ACC teams – North Carolina (11-3), Louisville (10-4) and Duke (10-4) – have fewer conference losses than the 10-5 Irish, who have a week to prepare for a home game against Georgia Tech next Sunday.

Notre Dame plays its final home game of the season against Boston College on March 1, followed by a road finale at Louisville on March 4.

“Ten league wins in this league this year is something to be really proud of,” Brey said. “It’s been really powerful. We’ve had winning records in three of the four years we’ve been in (the ACC) after posting a lot of winning records in the Big East.

“We’ve been really consistent doing that. That’s how we’ve played our way into NCAA tournament bids regularly.”

Since the 2014-15 season when Notre Dame made the first of back-to-back trips to the NCAA’s Elite Eight – the only team in the country to do so – the Irish are 16-10 on opposing ACC courts.

The Irish were 7-2 away from Purcell Pavilion in 2014-15 with victories over No. 8 North Carolina and No. 16 Louisville. Notre Dame slipped to 4-5 on the road last year, falling decisively at Virginia, Syracuse, Miami and Florida State, but claiming a victory at No. 9 Duke.

After winning its first three away from home this season against Pittsburgh, Miami and Virginia Tech, Notre Dame lost three straight to Florida State by three, Georgia Tech by two and North Carolina by seven.

Victories this past week at Boston College and at N.C. State have guaranteed the Irish a winning record on the ACC road with a 5-3 mark.

BENCH PRODUCTIVITY

Notre Dame’s rotation has dwindled since its four-game losing streak. Against N.C. State, big man Martin Geben – who started each of Notre Dame’s first 23 games – did not play.

But the Irish got a boost off the bench against the Wolfpack from red-shirt junior Austin Torres, freshman T.J. Gibbs and sophomore Matt Ryan.

Gibbs tossed in seven first-half points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field and 1-of-1 from three-point range with two assists and a steal.

Ryan, who scored just eight points in the first 13 ACC games and failed to reach double-digit playing minutes in any one of those games, tossed in six points against the Wolfpack on a pair of threes within a 40-second stretch late in the first half.

His nine minutes Saturday matched his season-high in ACC games. Ryan also nailed a big three in the come-from-behind victory at Boston College Tuesday.

Torres logged 10 minutes against the Wolfpack, scoring four points on a pair of baskets assisted by Matt Farrell

Each of the three Irish reserves had a pair of rebounds. Gibbs finished with three assists, second only to Farrell’s eight.

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