Sarr, Wake Forest deal blow to Irish NCAA hopes
Another day, another career-high scoring day for Wake Forest 7-footer Olivier Sarr.
The 7-foot Sarr scored 30 points, making 12 of 16 shots, and grabbed 17 rebounds Saturday afternoon for the Demon Deacons (13-15, 6-12 ACC), who pulled away late for an 84-73 victory over Notre Dame, dealing a significant blow to the Fighting Irish’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
With a 10-0 run down the stretch, the Deacons won despite squandering a 16-point, first-half lead.
On Wednesday, Sarr scored a then-career-high 25 points in Wake’s double-overtime victory over No. 7 Duke. Against Notre Dame (18-11, 9-9), Sarr outdueled 6-9 Irish forward John Mooney, who scored 24 points with 17 rebounds, but made only 10 of 22 shots from the field.
Sarr made a variety of shots — turnaround jumpers, hooks, tip-ins and dunks — as Notre Dame failed to deny him the ball. Mooney and 6-10 Juwan Durham often played behind Sarr and were unable to slow him down.
Sarr was also 6-for-7 from the foul line.
“We had no answer for the big fella tonight,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said of Sarr. “Our senior big guys couldn’t guard him.”
“I don’t know why they kept playing behind (Sarr),” said Wake guard Chaundee Brown, who scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. “We just kept feeding him.”
Sarr has made a habit of playing well against the Irish. Last year, he scored what was then a career-high 14 in a Wake victory at Notre Dame.
“I consider Mooney to be one of the best big men. He’s one of the guys I look up to,” Sarr said. “As a competitor, it’s great to have a matchup against him.”
After a hot start with eight quick points, Mooney cooled off from the field. But he had 14 points in the second half, including a dunk that gave the Irish their final lead with 6:52 left, and a 3-pointer that cut the Wake lead to 70-68 with 3:33 to play.
“I really enjoyed watching the two big guys play,” said Wake coach Danny Manning, the star big man on Kansas’ 1988 NCAA championship team. “(Sarr) is really starting to hit his comfort zone.”
Brown hit a key 3-pointer to snap Notre Dame’s 11-0 run early in the second half. Brandon Childress, playing in his final home game, had 14 points, including two key 3-pointers down the stretch.
The Deacons made 7 of 15 3-point field-goal attempts and were 23-for-27 from the foul line.
Nate Laszewski came off the bench to spark the Irish in the second half and finished with 15 points.
Childress’ 3-pointer with 3:09 to go gave Wake a five-point lead, triggering the 10-0 run. A tap-in by Sarr with 2:21 left put the Deacons ahead 75-68, and in control.
Wake raced out to a 39-23 lead and led 41-30 at halftime. The Irish cut the lead to 45-43 on Prentiss Hubb’s jumper after a steal.
T.J. Gibbs gave the Irish their first lead since the opening minutes with a driving basket that made it 57-55 with 9:28 left. But Childress quickly responded with a 3-point shot.
Notre Dame: The loss may have been a dagger to the Irish’s late NCAA run. They likely will need an upset victory on Wednesday at Florida State and a strong showing at the ACC Tournament to have any realistic hopes of making the 68-team field. Sarr exposed a weak Irish interior defense.
Wake Forest: The Deacons, who beat Duke in double overtime earlier in the week, claimed a second straight home victory over a hot opponent. The Deacons can ensure they won’t finish at the bottom of the ACC standings with a victory Tuesday at North Carolina. With Sarr playing at his best, the Deacons could be a dangerous opponent in what looms as a wide-open ACC Tournament.
Notre Dame: Mooney now has 24 double-doubles for the season. The Irish, who entered the game with the third fewest turnovers in the nation at 9.71, committed only four against Wake while recording 13 assists. Mooney was only 2 of 5 from the foul line, and the Irish hit only 15 of 24 attempts (62.5%).
Wake Forest: With back-to-back career scoring highs, Sarr had a combined 55 points in the Deacons’ victories over Duke and Notre Dame. Perhaps overlooked in the victory over the Irish was Brown, who grabbed 10 rebounds and was 5-for-6 at the foul line. The Deacons shot 23 of 27 (85.2%) from the foul line, including 17 of 21 in the second half.
Wake made timely 3-point shots despite taking only 15 attempts. Brown stopped the Irish’s 11-0 run early in the second half. Childress responded to put Wake back in front after Notre Dame took its first second-half lead. Childress’ 3-pointer with 3:09 to go was the back-breaker, restoring the Deacons’ lead to five points by answering a Mooney 3-pointer.
Notre Dame: The Irish host No. 6 Florida State on Wednesday.
Wake Forest: The Deacons play at North Carolina on Tuesday.