Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2023

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

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38 DECEMBER 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY JACK SOBLE N otre Dame was tired. Its short rotation, made shorter with the absence of sophomore forward Kebba Njie (hand), was beat up. Junior guard J.R. Konieczny, who posted his second straight double-double, had played so hard that he was cramping. But the Irish got it done. On the heels of an 83-59 loss to Au- burn that showed just how far the pro- gram has to go, Notre Dame bounced back with a gritty, grind-it-out, over- time win over Oklahoma State at the Legends Classic Nov. 17 in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Irish just made more plays, offensively and defensively, than the Cowboys on their way to a 66-64 vic- tory that improved their record to 2-2. For a budding program in the early stages of a rebuild, that might have been more important than your everyday No- vember win. "Any time you have pieces of success, it builds more and more belief," Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry said Nov. 21. "I talked about it before, like, 'Hey man, we can be down, we cannot play our best. We can play good and then have a team come back. We can be down in overtime and still come back.' "There's things there that, like, now they can point to and say, 'Oh, we can do this.'" It would have been understandable if the young Irish didn't have much be- lief after losing to Auburn. The Tigers, which have the talent, size and experi- ence to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament this March, outclassed Notre Dame for 30 of the game's 40 minutes. They didn't have much time to regroup, either. The Auburn game ended at about 11 p.m. EST, and the Oklahoma State game was set to tip off at 4:30 the next day. It was an NBA-style back-to-back, made more stressful by Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl leaving star big man Johni Broome in with as little as three minutes to play. Shrewsberry was more than a little bit annoyed at that after the game, and the feeling lingered into the following week. More to the point, that meant the Irish couldn't pull their forwards and MAKING STRIDES Oklahoma State win is important for a young team in the –big picture Junior guard J.R. Konieczny posted a pair of double-doubles in the Legends Classic Nov. 16-17, going for 18 points and 11 rebounds in the loss to Auburn before tallying 11 points and 10 boards in the overtime win over Oklahoma State. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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