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Notre Dame rallies to win season opener, edges Radford

Mar 17, 2022; San Diego, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Nate Laszewski (14) shoots a free throw during practice before the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Viejas Arena. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Cormac Ryan’s layup with nine seconds left boosted Notre Dame to a 79-76 victory over visiting Radford in the Fighting Irish’s season-opener Thursday night.

Ryan scored in transition to lead 77-76 as Notre Dame took advantage of a 5-on-4 situation with Radford’s DaQuan Smith lying injured out of bounds after an unsuccessful drive to the basket.

The Highlanders had a chance to erase their one-point deficit, but senior Josiah Jeffers missed a 6-foot runner from the baseline with two seconds left.

Graduate student Nate Laszewski, who grabbed a defensive rebound and sank two clinching free throws with four-tenths of a second left, paced Notre Dame with 28 points and 12 rebounds.

Trey Wertz added 18 points and Ryan finished with 10 points for the shorthanded Irish, who used just six players. Mike Brey boosted his record to 23-0 in Notre Dame home openers.

Freshman guard Kenyon Giles came off the bench to score 20 points for Radford (0-2), which led by as many as nine in the second half. Smith added 18 points.

Notre Dame established Laszewski early. He scored the team’s first nine points with a mix of 3-pointers, layups and free throws. But Radford scored on four of its first five possessions to prompt Notre Dame to ditch its man-to-man defense in favor of a zone.

Notre Dame clung to a 40-39 halftime lead, then missed eight of its first nine shots in the second half to help Radford build a 51-42 lead on Giles’ pullup jumper in transition with 13:22 to go.

Notre Dame’s comeback began with 9:36 left when Radford big man Shaquan Jules hit Laszewski in the face with a right elbow while making a move in the post. The officials ruled it to be a flagrant 1 foul, and Laszewski hit both free throws to cut Notre Dame’s deficit to 57-52. Ryan added two free throws on the ensuing possession.

The Irish finally regained a 72-71 lead on Dane Goodwin’s pair of free throws with 3:21 left, but Jeffers replied with consecutive driving layups to set up the riveting conclusion.

–Field Level Media