Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 26, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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48 NOV. 26, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY COREY BODDEN N otre Dame hit an early sea‑ son roadblock Nov. 14, when Radford upset the Irish 63‑60 in South Bend. With six new faces on the roster, head coach Mike Brey and his staff knew there would be some early setbacks. Notre Dame will attempt to find the necessary answers soon before entering the heart of their non‑ conference and ACC schedules. Here are the major takeaways from Notre Dame's first three games of the year. NO RHYTHM ON OFFENSE Notre Dame was expected to have some growing pains offensively while working six new players into the rotation, with others taking on much larger roles. However, Brey and company are still looking for an‑ swers to get the team untracked. The Irish started the same unit in the team's first two games, and even went with another group out of halftime of the second contest. B re y c o u n t e re d again with another starting lineup in the loss to Radford. Through three games, the Irish had shot 38.7 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from behind the three‑ point arc. After playing 10 guys in the first two contests, Brey and his staff shortened the rotation in the loss to the Highlanders. Eight players saw 12 or minutes of action, while freshman guard Dane Goodwin played only three minutes. "The one thing I talked to them about is it's a heck of a nine‑day stretch from [practice Nov. 12 through the Duquesne game Nov. 20]," Brey said. "We're going to have a much better feel of rotation and who we should start and those types of things after this stretch." VETERAN BACKCOURT STRUGGLING With a young roster and inexperi‑ ence throughout, Brey is counting on his veteran backcourt of junior T.J. Gibbs and senior Rex Pflueger to pro‑ vide leadership on and off the court to go with controlling the offense. However, during the team's first three game, the duo had difficulties finding their footing. Gibbs ranked second on the team in scoring (10.0 points per game) and assists (3.7 per contest), but shot just 29.7 percent (11 of 37) from the field and an even worse 13.6 percent (3 of 22) behind the arc. Pflueger didn't fare much better to begin the season, averaging 6.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per contest, while shooting just 27.3 percent (6 of 22) from the field and 30.8 percent on three‑pointers (4 of 13). If Notre Dame is going to have suc‑ cess and reach the NCAA Tourna‑ ment, it will be because the backcourt of Gibbs, who averaged 16.4 points during his sophomore year, and Pflueger played consistently well. "He probably is," Brey said when asked if Gibbs was pressing. "He's been feeling a little weight of the world on him. It's one of the reasons I played Prentiss [Hubb] more. "It kind of loosens him up, and he can come off to be the next driver. We have to try to help him to see if he can play through some stuff." LACK OF A POST PRESENCE In three games, Notre Dame has not been able to hurt defenses with a consistent post presence. Radford, the most talented team of the opening trio for the Irish, allowed Notre Dame to score only 22 points in the paint. After getting 34 points in the paint to start the season versus the Il‑ linois‑Chicago, the total went down the next two con‑ tests, shrinking to 30 against Chicago State before the Radford contest. Notre Dame has lacked a post pres‑ ence early in the season. The Irish have gotten some traditional back‑ to‑the‑basket post moves from the likes of forwards John Mooney, Elijah Burns and Juwan Durham, but they have been few and far in‑between. Mooney has shown flashes of a post game, but his best work typi‑ cally comes on the perimeter or crashing the glass. Burns and Dur‑ ham are still emerging when it comes to their offense. The Irish do not have a Bonzie Colson, Martinas Geben or Zach Auguste down low to consis‑ tently hurt opposing defenses. ✦ Second-Half Surge Helps Irish Bounce Back Notre Dame trailed 28-27 at the break, but a strong second-half performance offensively helped the Fighting Irish pull out a 73-64 victory over William & Mary Nov. 17. The Irish shot 50.0 percent (15 of 30) on their way to a 46-point second half. Notre Dame trailed 49-48 with 9:24 to go, but went on a 16-2 run to seize control of the game. Junior guard T.J. Gibbs scored 17 of his 18 points during the final 20 minutes of play to spark the Fighting Irish. "It was a heck of a win for us considering a tough night the other night," head coach Mike Brey said. " … We had game pressure on us and we had a lot of new faces out there that never had been in situa- tions like that. I thought overall they all acted pretty well. Something to grow on with this group." Freshman guard Prentiss Hubb earned his first career start in an Irish uniform, and contributed 11 points, four rebounds and two assists, while junior forward John Mooney added 13 points and 11 rebounds. — Corey Bodden GROWING PAINS The cold-shooting Irish struggle in the first few games of the season Senior guard Rex Pflueger and the Fighting Irish were off offensively during the first three games of the season, shooting just 38.7 percent overall and 28.6 percent from three-point range as a team. PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN

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