Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2021

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

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Page 46 of 55 NOV. 27, 2021 47 MEN'S BASKETBALL BY PATRICK ENGEL N otre Dame's second home tune-up before the Maui Invitational (in Las Vegas) was a tad more tense than the first. The Irish (2-0) defeated High Point 70-61 Nov. 16 in a closer-than-desired win over a team that ended last year ranked 284th by KenPom and lost by 35 at Northwestern four days prior. A bad shooting night — 6 of 31 on three- pointers (19.4 percent) — allowed High Point to linger for much of the evening. Graduate student forward Paul At- kinson Jr. was one of three Notre Dame players to post a double-double, finish- ing with a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds. Senior forward Nate Lasze- wski added 10 points and 16 rebounds, while senior guard Dane Goodwin had 12 points and 11 boards. ATKINSON RAISES HIS HAND When Notre Dame needed some- thing, anything on offense early in the second half, it turned to its crafty grad- uate student to find it. Notre Dame ran pick-and-rolls with Atkinson on con- secutive possessions after falling behind 36-34, and senior point guard Prentiss Hubb found him in the paint both times. The result was four points, two on a la- yup and two on free throws. He was just getting started — on both ends. Notre Dame ripped off a 13-0 run to take a 47-36 lead, with Atkinson in the middle of it. He started it with those four points. He stayed down on a ball fake to force a tough layup attempt. He scored on a post-up. Shortly after the run ended, he put back his own miss and blocked a layup. "I take it personally," Atkinson said. "My teammates trust me a lot when I catch the ball in the post. When shots weren't falling for us. I took it on my shoulders to attack the rim, get a good shot, and if not, kick it out." Atkinson added two blocks and an assist to his double-double. His motor runs only at 100 percent. Even if he had the flu two days earlier and the afteref- fects lingered past tipoff. "I thought he was feeling the cobwebs of missing two practices," head coach Mike Brey said. "I jumped him a little bit at halftime. I told him, 'You're fine now. Let's go.' He was pretty good." IRISH DEFENSE ADJUSTS High Point's offense runs through ju- nior guard John-Michael Wright, who averaged 20.1 points per game a year ago and took 34.9 percent of his team's shots when on the floor (seventh high- est nationally). The Panthers unsur- prisingly turned to him at the start. He had 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, with Hubb drawing the early assignment. Needing an answer, Notre Dame turned to senior guard Cormac Ryan to guard him. Ryan stayed on his hip and chased him around screens all night. "Cormac was fabulous," Brey said. "What's even more fabulous is how he embraces that role." Wright ended the game with 17 points and made just two of his last nine field goal attempts. With him in check, Notre Dame kept High Point at arm's length, even as its three-point tries drew iron. All told, Notre Dame's defense was satisfactory. There were some wayward moments where a defender got caught on an off-ball screen that led to an open look and some leaky transition defense, but nothing elongated. High Point's longest run was 4-0. The Panthers shot 28.1 percent in the second half. "I thought after the first five minutes, we defended really well," Brey said. Notre Dame has to prove it can de- fend against high-major teams, but it's worth noting last year's leaky defense was problematic against anyone. Low- major opponents Detroit and Bellarmine reached 70 points and 1.0 points per pos- session versus the Irish in 2020. Nei- ther High Point nor Cal State Northridge topped 0.91 points per possession. Notre Dame feels it's a preview of what's next. "We're actually going to be a team that can sit down and really bother peo- ple," Ryan said. A ROUGH SHOOTING NIGHT Notre Dame's three-point percentage felt impossibly low given the quality of the shots it took. The Irish only made three of their first 23 attempts from deep against High Point. They went ev- erywhere but the rim, despite most of them being rhythm shots. Notre Dame is not going to shoot 19 percent from deep the entire season. It should be safely north of 30, really. But will its shooting be a consistent pres- ence, or will vacillations with low points like this game be a lingering concern? An early season off night like this evokes the question. Next up for Notre Dame is a matchup against Saint Mary's (4-0) in the first round of the Maui Invitational Nov. 22 in Las Vegas at 11:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The Irish will face either Oregon or Chaminade the following day. Other teams in the field include Texas A&M, Butler, Wisconsin and Houston. ✦ Irish Hold Off High Point And Set Sights On Maui Graduate student forward Paul Atkinson Jr. had 19 points and 11 rebounds in Notre Dame's 70-61 win over High Point Nov. 16. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS 2021-22 NOTRE DAME MEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE As of Nov. 18 Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Nov. 13 Cal State Northridge W, 68-52 Nov. 16 High Point W, 70-61 Nov. 22 vs. Saint Mary's# (ESPN2) 11:30 p.m. Nov. 23 vs. Oregon or Chaminade# TBA Nov. 24 vs. Butler, Houston, Texas A&M or Wisconsin# TBA Nov. 29 at Illinois (ESPN2) 9 p.m. # Maui Invitational at Las Vegas

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