Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 25, 2023

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

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46 NOV. 25, 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY JACK SOBLE T he eight players who saw action for Notre Dame Nov. 11 against Western Carolina own a combined seven years of college basketball experience. Western Carolina's starting five alone combined for 11. As both head coaches said after the game, that mattered in a 71-61 win by the Catamounts, which dropped the Irish to 1-1. Western Carolina head coach Justin Gray illustrated his point with a relatable anecdote. "It's like when you get your driver's license, you're going out there, you're a little nervous," Gray said. "And you're driving with your hands at 10 and 2 all the time. But once you start a couple years in, guess what? You're leaning over. You put your seat back, you turn the music up." The Catamounts built a lead that grew as large as 16 points. Notre Dame made several attempts to come back, shrinking the gap from 55-39 to as lit- tle as 62-59 with 3:45 left in the game. That included a 12-0 run, when the Irish came storming back by playing tight defense and drawing fouls. Gray chose not to take a timeout when Notre Dame made its run. He believed his guys were experienced enough to get the job done. And he was right. "It's the kind of confidence that those guys have," Gray said. "I come from an era where, 'Let's figure it out. You guys figure it out.' And they stuck to the game plan." The game plan, as Gray put it, was to contain high-scoring freshman Markus Burton and Notre Dame's other talented guards. He mentioned freshman Braeden Shrewsberry as well. Western Carolina was fine if the Irish got open looks for big men Carey Booth and Matt Zona, even if Booth, also a freshman, hit his fair share (4 of 8 from behind the arc). Inexperience Shows In Rough Early Season Stretch Freshman guard Markus Burton (above, 19.3 points per game) and his classmate, forward Carey Booth (11.0), were Notre Dame's top two scorers through three games. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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