Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2024

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

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46 JANUARY 2024 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY JACK SOBLE A round 17,000 people made Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee shake as Notre Dame broke its pregame huddle and sent its starting five onto the court. Sophomore forward Kebba Njie won the tip-off, but the noise didn't stop as freshman guard Markus Burton drib- bled upcourt. The first Irish possession ended in an all-too-familiar shot-clock violation, and the game spiraled out of control from there. No. 8 Marquette rewarded the fans who rocked its home arena Dec. 9 with a 78-59 win that was not as close as the score indicated, and Notre Dame looked overwhelmed from the start. How overwhelmed? The Golden Ea- gles jumped out to a 17-0 lead before Burton stopped the bleeding. "It was more the team than the atmo- sphere," Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry said. "Don't get me wrong, I've been to a lot of places, this is one of the best in the country. … The fans didn't play, but the guys on the court did." Shrewsberry acknowledged that Notre Dame cutting into the deficit in the second half was at least in part the result of Marquette understandably taking its foot off the gas. Seeing the way the Golden Eagles defended with ferocious effort and got to the rim at will confirmed to Shrewsberry what he already believed. "We've had a bunch of early season tests as a team," Shrewsberry said. "But this is the best team we've played." Marquette head coach Shaka Smart, in his third season after a six-year run at Texas but perhaps most famous for his Final Four run with VCU in 2011, has built a monster in Milwaukee. He's also built a culture that celebrates defensive stops more than it celebrates dunks. The scoreboard at Fiserv Forum keeps track of the Golden Eagles' pass deflec- tions throughout the game, and they finished with 24. "They play super high-up in gaps and get a lot of pass deflections," junior guard J.R. Konieczny said. "We had trouble penetrating through the gaps. We tried to make early, easy passes and they just had their hands out in passing lanes." Marquette forced Notre Dame into mis- take after mistake on the offensive end, as the Irish turned the ball over 19 times. Fiserv's "kill counter," which records every time the Golden Eagles force three empty possessions in a row, wound up at 8, but even that didn't tell the whole story. Especially at the beginning, Notre Dame legitimately could not get near the basket. They tried swinging it around the perim- eter, they tried to create off the dribble and they tried several different screen actions. Absolutely nothing worked. The Golden Eagles shuffled faster than the Irish could dribble and stood their ground whenever someone tried to drive. "I think nerves definitely got to us," Konieczny said. "We had to do a better job swinging the ball, using ball fakes. I don't think we used a ball fake in the first five minutes." Marquette Serves As Model For Micah Shrewsberry's Program 2023-24 NOTRE DAME MEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Time/Result Nov. 6 Niagara W, 70-63 Nov. 11 Western Carolina L, 71-61 Nov. 16 vs. Auburn# L, 83-59 Nov. 17 vs. Oklahoma State# W, 66-64 (OT) Nov. 22 Maryland Eastern Shore W, 75-55 Nov. 28 at South Carolina% L, 65-53 Dec. 2 at Miami* L, 62-49 Dec. 5 Western Michigan W, 86-65 Dec. 9 at Marquette L, 78-59 Dec. 16 Georgetown (CW) 2:15 p.m. Dec. 19 The Citadel (ACCN) 6 p.m. Dec. 22 Marist (ACCN) 8 p.m. Dec. 30 Virginia* (ACCN) 12 p.m. Jan. 3 NC State* (ACCN) 9 p.m. Jan. 6 Duke* (ACCN) 6 p.m. Jan. 9 at Georgia Tech* (ESPN/2/U) 9 p.m. Jan. 13 Florida State* (CW) 2:15 p.m. Jan. 15 at Boston College* (ESPNU) 7 p.m. Jan. 24 Miami* (ESPN/2/U) 7 p.m. Jan. 27 Boston College* (ESPN/2/U) 12 p.m. Jan. 31 at Virginia* (ESPN/2/U) 7 p.m. Feb. 3 at Pitt* (ACCN) 6 p.m. Feb. 7 at Duke* (ACCN) 9 p.m. Feb. 10 Virginia Tech* (CW) 5:30 p.m. Feb. 14 Georgia Tech* (ACCN) 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at Louisville* (ESPN/2/U) 7 p.m. Feb. 24 at Syracuse* (ESPN/2) 12 p.m. Feb. 27 Wake Forest (ACCN) 9 p.m. Mar. 2 Clemson* (CW) 7:45 p.m. Mar. 5 at North Carolina* (ACCN) 7 p.m. Mar. 9 at Virginia Tech* (ESPNEWS) 2 p.m. Mar. 12-16 ACC Tournament$ TBA # Legend's Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.; * ACC game; % ACC/SEC Challenge; $ at Washington, D.C. After watching his team get drilled by a top-10 Marquette squad 78-59 Dec. 9, Shrewsberry said, "This could be us in three years if we stick with it, if we play the right way." PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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